#356: A Year of Finishing

Row of vintage store masked and behatted mannequin heads, shot from behind.
Woodward Throwbacks, Hamtramck, MI (Kodak Portra 400)

At some point last year, during a bout of pandemic fatigue, I decided I wasn’t going to resist any new waves of creative interest. I’d let them carry me where they carried me. The hope was to rediscover some of the joy in pursuing ideas for their own sake, and also release the guilt I’d had over abandoning projects in the past.

And ride those waves I did! To film photography, golf, and to smaller isles. There were also story and book ideas that I picked at like scabs – occasionally and just enough to keep the wound open. (I’ll end the metaphor here before it gets too macabre.)

The result of my Year of Joy was that I tried a lot of things that didn’t work, and some that did. But the guilt of abandonment didn’t fully go away. Looking back, I can think of at least three “last mile” projects – projects that were 90 percent of the way there but that I didn’t make the effort to complete. I’m honest with myself, it’s because finishing would have meant subjecting them to the approval of strangers (or at least less-close friends). Would have meant opening myself up to rejection. That I was following my creative whims, I think, was a convenient shield.

In my journal last week, I wrote: A Year of Finishing. But I don’t want it to be a pendulum swing in the other direction. Finishing just for the sake of finishing is no better, to me, than abandonment. “Is this just more cruft I’m adding to the world?” is a question not asked often enough.

Finishing also requires a different kind of labor than starting or elaborating. It requires greater patience and attention – often at odds with a culture of looming deadlines. And it sometimes it does mean stopping early, but for the right reasons, and only after earnest reflection.

Maybe my new mantra needs another word: A Year of Finishing Well.