Friday, September 9, 2016

Leaving things unfinished


     There are things that are best left unfinished. That is the most appropriate advice I have to offer at the start of a new school year. Follow it and you’ll be one grade a head in your life’s assessment plan.
      Seriously, unfinished business goes against the grain of what you and I have been taught our entire lives. Clean your plate. Stick with the musical instrument. Be loyal to your company. Complete the embroidery project.
     In other words, complete what you’ve started, or you are a procrastinator, ineffectual and undependable person.
     Here’s my point.
      It doesn’t equate that not finishing slows down the progress of creativity and problem solving. It might have the opposite effect and challenge your mental capabilities. 
     Nothing learned is ever put to waste. One idea piles on top of another.
     Impulsivity can get you into trouble and often it is wisest to walk away form things not clearly thought through. You save time, money and a whole lot of grief.
     I can’t imagine that a scientist follows through on every experiment when signs are leading nowhere. Maybe the bunny trail heads off somewhere else, and that road will prove more productive.
     Usually an artist makes many rough sketches before starting the actual piece.  I would dare say that those unfinished sketches are “thinking in progress” and hold great value in the final result.
     I am not implying that all things should go unfinished. That would be insane.
     It occurred to me the other day when I was going through folders on my computer desktop, that I have a mammoth number of incomplete stories, poems and scribbles.
     I doubt a single one of these bits and pieces will get finished ever. I call them “starters.” There are waiting, though, like cough medicine and allergy pills on my shelf, just in case. I never know when I might look back and read an intelligent thought in the middle of a lousy piece of fiction I was trying to pawn off as decent. I’ll surprise myself and lift the thought for another purpose.
      I often write until my mind goes dry and I realize that I have said next to nothing worth its salt for human consumption. By three or four hundred words into the page, I fold up shop. Fortunately, I have that luxury.
     In fact, a writer once told me under no circumstances to toss out even a snippet of my written work. He’s been writing for years, and I can’t imagine what his computer desktop and journals hold. Treasures are hidden away from the world’s eyes, although he wouldn’t admit to it.
     I believe in taking chances, and risk taking is a valuable learning tool as hard as it makes life. Somehow one risk may lead me in another direction and I am merrily on my way to a different thought and outcome.
     You know people who have ten different projects going on at the same time and they bounce back and forth happily between them. Some get completed. Others not. It’s the stimulation they receive I believe from being actively engaged that keeps their minds in full gear.
     They are the most interesting people to have a conversation with around the table for they can talk in so many different directions and usually are great at sharing information. Wines. Travel. Hobbies. Home improvement projects. You name it.
     Our minds don’t all work the same. Thank goodness.
     There are folks who methodically complete every single task on their goal sheet, and that is fine by me. Unfinished business is unheard of in their books. Three cheers.
     I think of all the people who tell me that they are writers, and when I ask them what they are writing, I get ten thousand excuses why they aren’t doing it right then.
     They have made hundreds of “attempts” but nothing completed to show for all their work. Probably they are among some of the most brilliant people I know, too. There minds are going in a whirl at full speed and likewise, it is nearly impossible for them to physically sit down disciplined to write. 
     They might take a lesson from making an honest attempt at writing as much as possible – I don’t say every day – and practice, practice.  At least they’ve made a start. And starts are good signs of motion in a forward direction.
     So nowadays I have no qualm in not cleaning my plate. I work a little harder at gauging my portions to begin with, or take a doggie bag home from a restaurant. There are alternatives to not finishing a meal for a positive and healthy reason.
     I started playing the piano and took lessons until my mother gave up on me. My heart wasn’t into it, and I caused more stress than need be at home.  However, when I picked up the flute a couple years later, I already knew a lot about reading music, and I was beyond the basics.
     In teaching I was not afforded the opportunity to move from one location to another. However, I didn’t end up teaching the same grade level that I started, and that kept me fresh. When I left teaching I took those observational skills and questioning techniques off in a different career path.
     As for the embroidery project, it’s still on the top closet shelf. I doubt it will ever get finished.