I have lots of unfinished work in my study. I kind of know what needs to be done but I much prefer to start anew. The expat magazine needs to get published by the end of the quarter, columns need to be submitted at the Daily, the compilation of short stories waiting in long to be completed, my new website work-in-progress, translation of stories, John’s manuscript , and I am looking forward to a discussion about creating a photobook with my artist friend. Is this typical? How do I inspire myself towards completion? Or is this some sort of psychological issue?
My mentor Robert Genn sends advice– “If it’s a psychological issue, then it’s an epidemic. Some artists complete one at a time and then get on with the next, but they’re the exception. Being forever dissatisfied and unsure is more commonplace and probably better for the art.
There’s wisdom in abandonment. Very often a painting is telling you it has “permanent fatal errors.” Ill-conceived to start with, these unrealized works are part of the process–mere sorties on the way to better ones. In abandonment there is knowledge.
On the other hand, if you accept that desire is the greatest thing in the world, there is always a possibility you can turn lead into gold.
To do this you need to try to figure out what’s important and what’s not. Casting your eyes around at your orphans, the workable ones rise in your vision and become more desirable to your hands. As Steven Pressfield says in his excellent book, The War of Art, “You must do what’s important first.”
At any time, beginning or finishing, you also need to know your span of concentration. We’re all different. As a poor-finisher myself, I’ve found that before starting out on projects, I need to think ahead to my chances for completion. I try to get a rough idea of the approximate work periods, problematical passages and potential joy zones ahead. My forecasting doesn’t always work, but it’s generally worth doing.”
Beautifully explained, and inspiring too. Where I was kicking myself into guilt, and trying to re-inforce deadlines down my neck. Thank you Robert, I feel ready to get organized at least, the rest will follow I hope.
“The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.” (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)
More from Robert – “There are many reasons why we don’t finish our work. Fear of failure and fear of success are two of them. A friend I’ve known since university is still in university. At 68 years of age he has several degrees, a Wiki mind, and the concentration span of a gnat. He’s disorganized and unemployable. I’m okay saying this because he loves to talk about it. Fact is, he’s comfortable on the yellow brick road and seldom feels the need to get to Oz. Some people are like that. Question is, do you need to be another one of them?”