What to do: Finish something

Mal | Art Process and Creativity | Friday, May 1st, 2009

Hex upright stack

I wonder how many Works in Progress (WIP’s) and Un-Finished Objects (UFO’s) are sitting out there in blogland with confused artists behind them. What happened in the project to make the maker abandon it? What went wrong? Why did the spark of creative ambition get doused?

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Jacquie of Tallgrass Prairie Studio recently hosted a month-long warcry: Spring to Finish! Nearly 100 makers pledged to complete their unfinished projects and report back. People, that’s a lot of unfinished projects! (If you think you missed your chance, BurdaStyle is running a similar sew-along until the end of May.) How do we end up with so many unfinished projects in the first place, and what shall we do about them?

Maybe the projects are darlings that need to be killed off. Maybe there is one particular part of the process that you enjoy, but not another. Maybe you have a tape playing in your head that says, over and over again, You are no good at ______________ (matching colors, drawing perspective, hand sewing, glazing, black-and-white photographs, composition, punctuation, whatever). Maybe we get so many unfinished projects that it seems impossible to finish any of them.

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A wonderful solution was used recently by Melissa at Whatnot: take an unfinished project, slice it up, repurpose it, simplify the original idea, reduce the scope and scale of the vision, and turn it into something which, though different from that first intention, is wonderful in its own way. Melissa killed her darling and made its corpse into something great. Good on you, Melissa! (Update: V of Bumblebeans is also slicing up old blocks and making new.)

During the Great Sort that is going on in my apartment, I found a stack of pieced blocks from an old finished project. I don’t have that many works in progress, in general, so it sort of shocked me to find these unfinished blocks in a tidy stack. I don’t remember what I originally saved them for. They were left over from a large quilt project that I finished years ago. Now I’m going to follow Melissa’s lead and turn them into something altogether different than what they were originally intended. Can’t wait to show you.

Sometimes self-help books and how-to articles and productivity gurus can get a bit esoteric about things like “How to get things done.” However, if you’re looking for some further reading on the why’s and how’s what-fors of finished and unfinished projects, try these. They’re not half bad.

What keeps you from finishing your projects? How can you take something unfinished and turn it into something else entirely?

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