Confession: I’m Bad At Finishing Things (and/or Keeping Them Going)

I honestly thought that maybe a zero-stakes anonymous blog would be easier to maintain than, say, any of the thousand other projects I’ve started in my life. Turns out I was wrong.

Here’s a list of some of the things I’m in the middle of right now:

  • a zine about meeting dogs in the street;
  • a zine about my body;
  • a zine of sketches of well-dressed people on public transport;
  • a novel about witches in space;
  • a story about a girl with amnesia who is abducted by a group of anarchists in a flooded near-future dystopia;
  • a self-designed course of readings about psychogeography;
  • a conference paper (due December);
  • a book review/essay (no due date but I’ve had it in the Pile for at least a year);
  • another essay (due at the end of the month);
  • rereading the Discworld books;
  • watching The Expanse, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane The Virgin, Lucifer, Elementary, The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine;
  • actually seeing my friends I guess;
  • and work;
  • and maybe making a worm farm;
  • and this blog;
  • and my other secret blog.

All of these are things I’ve started in the past two years and haven’t yet finished. And it makes it sound like I’m doing a lot, like I’m this ambitious go-getter with so many cool fun things to do. But it’s reached the point where I feel like I’m the opposite. I have so many things that I’m doing poorly, or intermittently, or that I’m putting on the backburner, that nothing is getting finished.

So what have I actually finished in those two years?

  • ten minutes’ worth of poetry for a reading I did in August;
  • a conference paper last year;
  • a zine about plants;
  • some weird collages that I don’t have a real purpose for, does that count as ‘finished’? yeah we’re gonna count it;
  • maybe some book reviews even though it feels like an actual eternity since I last wrote one.

And some bottles of perfume, a tube of lipstick and a couple of bottles of gin, because I’m trying to get better at not stopping in the middle of those things, too.

Because when you finish a thing–a lipstick, a book, a worm farm–you have to let it go.

Things change.

At least if you keep working on something forever, you’re in control of the changes. You’ve got that thing held tight in your grasp. And we’re taught that when we finish our homework, we hand it in and it gets evaluated and we get judged by the work we do, and that is actually the scariest part.

I also read a tweet yesterday from Charlie Jane Anders:

I’m working on that whole “recognising earlier that ‘this isn’t working'” thing. I’m more of a “keep every project simmering just enough to feel guilty about not working on it but not so much that it gains any momentum, because you never know when you might have a breakthrough” person, and it is not healthy. At all.

Two sides of the same coin. I’m just bad at letting things go.



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