finish what you started…

I am supposed to be finishing up my last paper, but I discovered a new podcast today that has put a notable crimp in my writing momentum. I intended this blog to be primarily about books, but I’m a knitter as well, and, as I am entering the obsessive knitting season for myself I was thrilled to find the Stash and Burn podcast on iTunes. For those of my readers who might also be knitters and haven’t heard this podcast, I highly recommend it as it documents another obsession: attempting to de-stash (aka go through one’s stash of yarn v. buying more). Unfortunately, one thing led to another and before you know it, I’ve spent most of the afternoon looking at different discount yarn websites, etc. I’m going to have to put my foot down and limit my internet time to the evenings.

The subject of finished and unfinished objects (FOs and UFOs in knitting parlance) came up repeatedly in the podcasts I’ve listened to so far, and I have to say–they are the bane of my existence. I consider myself to be something of a quitter (and not always in a bad sense): whether it be finishing a knitting project (I still have a sweater that I cast on at least ten years ago!), finishing books, or, most recently, finishing a ph.d. program (that I ended because I never finished a paper), I have a tendency to simply walk away (my marriage is perhaps the one exception to this). Now, one could argue that my inability to finish the paper/program was tied to the fact that I was inherently unhappy with both and that I needed to leave to save my sanity (and the whole long-distance marriage thing sucked rocks). But I am always ashamed when I read various people’s blogs and they remark on their inability or hesitation to leave a book unfinished. My problem is exactly the opposite. I have the tendency to check out trillions of books from the library, start them all (or at least think about starting them all, which I feel is at least half the battle), but more often than not, I finish none. NONE. I haven’t been able to truthfully update the books I’ve read since the end of classes two weeks ago.

I would like to blame this inability to push myself to the finish line on the Queen Mother (why did she have to introduce me to so many fun and exciting crafts?), but in reality, that doesn’t work. I think the problem I have is a complete lack of focus: somehow I need to fashion a pair of blinders for myself, so that I stop getting distracted (now that would be a fashion statement!). When I enter a bookstore (or library) there are so many books just waiting to attack me, and before you know it my arms are full by the time I get to the counter (where I have to pick up those being held for me as well). Entering a yarn store is even more disastrous, both for my stash and my wallet. I think it’s interesting that both of my obsessions (fiber arts and books) are very sensual endeavors. I love the feel of paper between my fingers and the smell of the book as I open it and I love to sink my hands into a pile of yarn. I often catch myself pausing often in my knitting just to feel the fabric.

As of late, I have been feeling rather upset with myself over this problem I have with finishing things, but perhaps there is another way to look at it. I think it’s a sign that I’m an optimist at heart. After all, when faced with beautiful book covers, rich colors of silky yarns, rough-cut pages, and handcrafted wooden knitting needles, I don’t necessarily see the objects themselves: I see the possibilities they represent, and those possibilities are endless. The contents of an unread book remain a tantalizing mystery as long as the book is unfinished, after all. In some respects, this kind of thinking can lead to a dangerous attachment to high expectations (in which I’m inevitably disappointed when the story/writing doesn’t live up to the one I’ve fashioned in my mind), or a tendency to live in a fantastical future v. the present. But there are those special moments, when the experience of reading lives up to everything I had hoped for, when I become so enraptured in my knitting or reading project that I forget to eat, forget to check the clock, forget that there are thousands of things I should be doing at the moment, and let myself sink into the experience at hand…those are the moments when I do finish what I’ve started. In other words, I’m just waiting for the right inspiration, and in the meantime, I will continue to populate my life with unfinished scarves, half-read stories, and sweaters that are only a suggestion of what they are meant to be. I’ll get around to them….sooner or later (I think). And if not, I need to focus on enjoying the process. And who knows what these (false) starts might turn out to be in the future?

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Clio Bluestocking on May 24, 2007 at 9:19 am

    I will see your 10 year old project, and raise you a project that I started in 1982, didn’t finish, forgot how to knit, learned how to knit again, twice in the interim , and still haven’t returned to that initial project. It is lying somewhere in my parents’ attic. I now justify my closet of unfinished knitting projects by saying that I knit for the sake of knitting, for the activity and the colors of the yarn. It’s kind of a zen principle.

    I agree with you completely: being completely absorbed by something makes finishing it — whatever “it” may be — so much easier. I live for those absorbing projects!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Loose Baggy Monster on May 24, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Clio–That’s fantastic! I don’t think I even know where the yarn is for that initial project anymore, so I don’t think I could finish it even if I wanted to. But it stands a as a marker of my personal history, so it has value in that sense, unfinished or not. And i like the idea of knitting for knitting’s sake. I love the textures and colors, and once an object is finished, I don’t feel like there’s anything more for me to do with it in an active sense, and I miss that. For a long time I couldn’t even read books a second time because that initial feeling of rapture and discovery was gone (or at least transformed into something else). Although, strangely enough, I can watch movies over and over and over–perhaps because I don’t have as much invested in them–they tend to be background noise for me rather than something completely engrossing….

    Reply

  3. Posted by Pour of Tor on May 31, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    I have nothing but simply for your unfinished project dilemma! Both my knitting bag and my shelves are filled with half-attempts (as the “currently reading” section of my blog attests!).

    Reply

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