I get the urge to switch activities when I’m three-quarters through unpacking my groceries. I will have three bags unpacked, one left with tomato paste, rolled oats and two boxes of cereal. Nothing perishable, because that would drop me straight into fuckwit territory (using my mother’s scale). And I get this urge to leave. It’s a big feeling. The rest of the bags are lying empty on the kitchen floor, and I’ll walk off to take a shower, write down a thought, run a load of washing. It’s a powerful feeling I must obey.
I get it when I’m folding laundry—90% done. Piles everywhere. Maybe some undies unfolded. It’s perfectly clean and heaped all over the corduroy green chair. The one I like to read on. And I’ll walk away. Start something else.
What does this mean?
Because I do it with my writing, too. At work, when I was tasked with the press releases for an airline, I’d write the first draft—well, most of it. Then I’d put it down for quite a while, ’til the hour before it was desperately needed, then have to power through the edits, the finishing, panicked, but on point.
Projects without a deadline are death to me. Nearly impossible to finish. At least, they used to be.
Now, at least half the time, I tell myself I am capable. I notice the aversion, the panicky, fluttery feeling when I think about finishing something, when I’m close. The texture of it is child. There’s a part of me that knows finishing means extreme judgment by an audience who does not understand me or my potential. Who finds my work, without meaning to, not quite enough.
Right now, for example, my urge is not to finish. Actually, this blog stayed exactly as it is above, nearly not done, for four months over summer. My editor (and damned fine writer herself), Lindsey (could someone please hyperlink this to her work, which does get finished), said I could leave it like so, to drive the point home. She really did appreciate the irony, but perhaps I might want to tie things up.
Because if I can’t finish a blog post, it will be nigh on impossible to nail a novel. So here’s to the nation’s eroding attention span and the compressed, one idea at a time blog world we live in, which offers people like me the perfect chance to finish.
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