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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The end of the Word Project draws nigh. And I have to say… I can’t wait for it to be over.

When I started out with the intent of writing every day, I had clearly forgotten that there are other things that have to happen in a day. Like working, and cooking. And breathing.

I had clearly forgotten that there were other things I liked to do, like reading, and puzzles. And literally anything else besides writing.

Turns out words do not write themselves. Nor do ideas magically present themselves just because you decided you wanted one.

Which probably contributed to why it took two years to get a year’s worth of writing.

And now we come to the end.

I was determined to get here, for one simple purpose: to say I did.

I’ve been reflecting on what this project meant and what’s next, but that is for the next post. In this one, I want to reflect on finishing.

I am laughably bad at finishing things. Great at starting. There isn’t a lot that I haven’t at least tried if the notion got in my head. But inevitably I get to a point where I feel like ok, I get it, time to move on.

If you could look back through the lens of my life you would see a lot of dangling threads. So I wondered… what is it about finishing things that is so outside my realm, that getting here, five blogs away from “done,” makes me want to break out the confetti?

I’m not lazy. Couch crater notwithstanding, I really don’t sit around eating truffles and painting my toenails all day.

I don’t think it’s as simple as a fear of failure. I mean, quitting three quarters of the way through isn’t exactly a roaring success, is it? It’s sort of failing by default. No, I’m not afraid to fail. I do that quite spectacularly often enough.

I don’t think it’s a fear of success, either. I’m also rather adept at throwing a little confetti for myself when I do succeed. So no, I’m not afraid to succeed.

It isn’t even that I lack the motivation… technically. I’m motivated. Theoretically. Granted, sometimes I just don’t want to, and then I play three hours of card games and forget all about it. But no, I’m sufficiently motivated to want to finish things.

It’s just that lots of times I don’t.

And I think there are two reasons. One I thought of myself, and one I googled to see what other people had to say.

The first reason is that sometimes I don’t know what “done” looks like.

Do you know why I am finishing this word project? Because it has an endpoint. Done means December 31st, with a post written and published for each day of the year. Even if that took two years.

A puzzle is done when you put the last piece in. Or, the last piece you can find.

Other endeavors are not as lucky. Like the barrel project. O, Woe! I am probably never going to do the barrel project, because I don’t know what done looks like. Theoretically it means sanded and stained, but in reality, how sanded is sanded? What about that knot I can’t get out? What about the rust rings? If I sanded just a little more, wouldn’t it be better? What about the rough spot I missed? Do I go back over it or is it “done enough?”

Done enough is not done.

It can be just as “done enough” in its partially sanded state as it would be if I spent another ten hours on it.

It will forever be more or less done, but never quite.

There are a lot of projects like that. The closet organizing project. It’s sort of done. Almost done. Not quite done.

But what is done? Is done where there is nary a stray leaf of paper? Or when things are mostly in boxes but there’s that one shelf of junk you are never going to know what to do with?

Does done always have to mean perfection?

And if not, which part of imperfection means it’s done?

So many conundrums.

At any rate, as I reflected on this, I decided that I need to be better at defining the end.

Do you know what I always get to the end of? A book. There is always a last page and I can always get there and it is never in question whether I’ve finished it or not.

So for the next project, whatever that may be, and trust me I’ve already got a few jetting around in that whirlpool of a brain, I need to put a The End on it the same way as it would appear at the end of a book.

That will help.

The second reason that getting to the end is hard, the one I googled, is because I need the struggle.

I didn’t come up with that, but someone else said it and in that split second I thought…. Yes! If I finish something, the struggle is over. It’s like a party after the last guest leaves, and all you have left is a sink full of dishes and a few empty bourbon bottles. And who wants THAT?

This is even more of a conundrum because it’s not that I want to be full of angst and under pressure to accomplish something, but somehow it works.

If I had set out to write 365 blogs, it would have happened. Maybe. Probably. Eventually. But I set out to do a very specific thing, which is write one thing on each day of the year. That is a very finite thing, and even though I failed in that quest in the first year, I managed to do it this year. I mean… assuming a meteor doesn’t crash on my head before December 31st, in which case I beg you to give me a pass and throw a little confetti anyway.

And part of the reason it happened is because there was a fair amount of duress. Every DAY! Until you have wracked your brain for a fully lucid and intelligible sentence, let alone an entire page, every single day, it’s hard to imagine the amount of effort that takes.

And yet the sheer magnitude of it, the battle with my own malaise, the arguments I had with uncooperative verbs and the Herculean dragging of ideas from the dredges of fathomless depths was part of the allure.

I could not have scaled Mount Everest with more conviction.

The nice thing about finishing a project like this is that I am satisfied that it has been accomplished and feel absolutely no compulsion to do it again. But there has to be something worthy of battle, so I need to come up with the next struggle. As long as it has a very specific and finite end.

As I near the end of this reflection, the mere act of writing this seems to support my first theory: I just don’t know when to stop. So before I go I will leave you with this final thought. Sometimes I don’t finish things because there are just too many things to do. Not as in “omg I have all these things to do!” but “omg I COULD BE doing all these other things!”

There are a lot of things and sometimes I want to do them all. It’s like sampling the dessert table. You don’t have to FINISH the tray of cookies. It’s better if you take a bite of all of them.

Photo: the end of the road… or is it?