Monday, August 1, 2011

Am I there yet?

It occurs at about the same time in every project.  The idea was in my head for about six months.   I drew a sketch and periodically “visited” my idea in anticipation, but I was determined to finish several other projects before I allowed myself to begin working on it.  Finally (Oh, Joy!) it was time to begin.  I have been working in a frenzy of excitement and creative energy for two weeks straight, not only while I’m in my studio, but dreaming about it, thinking about it, and wanting to be with it when I had to take care of other, more practical matters (such as have been previously mentioned in this blog).  It has been a satisfying challenge and I love the piece – it makes me happy just to look at it.  But as soon as I completed the top, it happened.
I still have quite a bit of work to do.  I need to sandwich it, figure out some logistics (it’s kind of a complicated deal) and most of all, I need to quilt it in a way that really enhances it.  In short, I am only about halfway through with it, and suddenly I’ve lost my passion!  I no longer care about finishing this piece.  In fact, I want to start working on something else instead.  And sadly, it seems to happen at this point in every project I start. What’s up with that?   
I think that I’m not alone in this little idiosyncrasy either.  How many other people out there have spent countless hours on projects only to suddenly lose their momentum when they can see the finish line?  I happen to know quite a few people who have as many unfinished projects as they do finished ones.
So what causes this (irritating) phenomenon?  Here are some thoughts:
            It’s really strange, but it’s kind of like Groucho Marx saying “I wouldn’t want to attend any party that I’m invited to.”  It was a challenge, and now that the challenge is winding down, or now that I’ve nearly accomplished what I wanted to do, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.  I mean, if I can pull it off, it must not be all that difficult, right?  So - it is the thrill of the “chase” keeping me from finishing!
Or it could be that I’ve burned myself out on the thing, going at it so intensely for so long that I no longer have the energy to complete it.  So - it is exhaustion keeping me from finishing!
Maybe the truth is that I’m not so excited about the next steps.   I’m not as good at it as I want to be and I don’t want to ruin it after I have put so much into it.  So - it is fear keeping me from finishing!
On the other hand, maybe there’s no reason to analyze it, because the cause doesn’t matter.  I just have to figure out the cure - don’t I?  Hmm - maybe not.  What if it’s just the process we are supposed to focus on, not the finished product.  Maybe the thing, finished, is far less important than what we learned along the way, making it.  I do feel I learn something from everything I do, every time I do it, if I just pay attention to it while I’m doing it.  So - it doesn’t matter at all if I finish it!
Nope - not at all.  It doesn’t matter at all if I never finish a single project.  But I still want to.  I still want to because I spend a lot of  time and energy (well, okay - money, too) on my creations – in the long run it makes me unhappy to lavish such intense enthusiasm and attention upon something for a brief shining moment only to abandon it at the siren call of a new idea.  I know we live in a culture that is always looking for the next thing, (or person, just look at the divorce rate!) but I think we are missing the joy of right now when we are always craning ahead to see what’s coming.  I still want to complete my projects because I started them, and that means they must have been meant to be.  It’s part of the journey, too, even though it’s not the fun part anymore.  And (I can’t help it – I’m half German) there’s the practical part of me that says I’m trying to make a living off my art, and I don’t guess people want to buy an idea to hang on their wall, but a complete piece of art that makes them happy every time they look at it.  
But I admit it, the thrill is gone.  I guess this is where good old-fashioned discipline has to kick in for me.  But something I’ve discovered from this project is that I actually like to finish what I start – even though I don’t have to.  But I think it will be okay to walk away from it for a few days, focus on something else, and then come back and focus on the next step in the process.  In the end, if I pay attention to the “doing,” not the completing, I’ll have something far more valuable than a finished project - I’ll have learned something.