Why is it so hard to finish a project? Maybe you don’t have this problem. Maybe endings are your forte. Maybe you move in a beautiful trajectory through life and know exactly when you’ve reached your destination.
Not me. I wish I was the sort of writer who knows when to say “it’s a wrap,” who simply slaps her hands together and pops open the bubbly.
Maybe you’re a queasy finisher like me.
There are lots of possible reasons not to let go: perfectionism (a desire to be flawless and, so, undo every past mistake), fear (of disapproval or approval), emptiness (what next?), attachment (to the intimacy of the work before it goes into the world), bafflement (what is the ending anyway?), longing (for the work to be more beautiful, sad, funny, scary, warm, alive than it is), nausea (what Zadie Smith describes as a kind of ill-feeling or skepticism towards the “well-made” object.)
When I work it often feels as if I am chasing a point that is endlessly receding. It’s a yearning and itchy feeling. Maybe letting go is simply a matter of embracing the human, messy and realistically incomplete nature of every endeavor. Maybe it’s our inability to ever be deeply finished that saves us as artists and keeps us going.
Here is a drawing from Micah Lexier’s series “A Minute of My Time.” Each work marks one minute of the artist’s lifetime. Basic rule, make a simple continuous scribble, then stop. No need to ask: what to increase? What to reduce? Should it be bigger, redder, bolder? It is what it is. A nice finishing line. Somewhere in this is a lesson. There will always be other scribbles.
p.s. Señor Chariandy and Señorita Goto, my finish-friends, this is for you. xox