Finishing a Project: Decide-Commit-Focus

Maybe you have a box full of unfinished books or stories like I do. What's the deal? Why can we finish some projects and not others? Is it possible to go back? Since self help always comes in numbers, here are three steps for possibly getting the job done.

Decide. Decide which project you are going to finish. Spread out partially done work and take a careful look. One will likely  send out a little magnet or tug on your coat. Pick a project, any project. Put the rest away. If you are starting fresh, choose a topic or structure to start with. In "The Cauldrons of de Kooning," the author quotes de Kooning, "In art one idea is as good as another." Ideas that have meaning to you, that is. If you like, you can order a mug with this saying.

Commit. Make it the top priority on the to-do list. Gather your materials, clear a space, and sit down.

Focus. Work on one section. Do you need to write? Edit? Design pages? Create images? Sketch it out, doodle on sticky notes, cover your table with brown paper and scribble. Focus on the one area, but let yourself make preliminary notes and possibly even mistakes on separate materials first.

The main point is that the project has to be able to re-grab us. Something inspired us to begin with and we have to recapture that mood, get in the groove again. It may or may not be comfortable going back there, but sometimes pushing through that discomfort is part of the process and the final outcome can be quite rewarding. We can also decide if we really want to finish or if we should commit to recycling the materials and focus on moving on.


D-C-F sounds like a great mantra to post right near my home page!
Anna Kingsley said…
Amen. I've needed to hear this. Thank you!
Lauren said…
Oh, thank you. I needed this. :)
HGF said…
hi Alisa, Thank you so much for this wonderful post. You are such an inspiring artist and writer....I have all your books and follow this blog religiously. Thanks for sharing yourself with the world! What do you think about the flip side of this decision? When you let a project go as it no longer has meaning to you. I've been trying to finish or purge unfinished work recently and, while I know the most value was in the process, it is a little painful to discard work that doesn't make the cut. What do you think? Many thanks again for all creativity and inspiration, Holly
Alisa said…
I completely understand what you are saying and sympathize, too. I once threw out a garbage bag, possibly two, full of book models that I knew I would never use again, and even that was painful. On the other hand, there is always more to make! If the unfinished work is taking up too much space and holding me back I have to pack it away or just let it go…