On a rare day that I actually had a bit of time to do some organizing, I came to a realization about myself (not the most impressive one): I have a lot of “unfinished business,” at least to do with personal projects. When I receive work with a deadline, I strive to accomplish that in a timely fashion. Because someone is counting on me, I don’t want to disappoint them by being tardy.
On the other hand, many other things remain incomplete. Cross-stitches I started years ago rest half done in my drawer. Blog entries I have begun—nearly 200 to date—remain in my draft folder. Photo albums—lots of them—line an entire shelf with packets of photographs sitting on top of them, rather than placed inside where they should be.
Then there are the books or novels I plan or hope to write. I created a Microsoft Excel file with working titles. There are more than 90 fiction and non-fiction ideas listed. One column gives the number of words written for each book so far. I have nearly 200,000 words altogether, but no more than 20,000 for any one of them.
I often wonder why so many of my personal projects are left undone. Why does it seem difficult to complete even one? And why do I operate this way?
One reason could be that ideas are always popping into my head. I’ll wake up from a vivid dream and before the morning is over will write yet another outline for a book. Poetry starts forming in my mind while I’m sitting on a bus or reading or doing other work.
And blog posts? Any time my random thoughts come together into a cohesive pattern, I begin to write. This could be anything from an experience of the day to a memory from the past, or even a realization of some sort.
That’s the problem. I start. Then I get a phone call, or reach my destination, or get a request from one of my kids, or realize I need to get back to completing my other work or preparing dinner. And what I have started doesn’t get finished.
Is it procrastination? Busyness? Lack of organization? Too many pies up there in the sky? All of the above? What’s the solution to getting these writing projects or other to-dos from “pending” in my brain to the complete version where they can actually make a difference?
In his book, The Weathering Grace of God, Ken Gire writes of the importance of “stillness.”
“Poets know the importance of … stillness. They know that if they are still enough, long enough, the art they are working on will speak to them, tell them what it wants to be and what it needs from them to become it. All artists know this, whether they work with paint or clay, words or musical notes.
“Michelangelo knew how to be still before the stone and listen to the David within it. Strauss knew how to be still before the Danube and listen to the waltz that was eddying about in its waters. Monet knew how to be still before the pond and listen to the lilies sunning on its surface. … Our culture knows little of this kind of listening.”
The best ideas, and the completion of them, require not only time to do them, but also stillness and quietness of body, mind, and spirit. To listen to how they wish to be said and completed. If I am still and listen, I will know what I need to do with these ideas and how best to go about finishing up any of the projects that are still unfinished.
It’s easy to start something. It’s good to start something. Well begun is half done, they say. But to finish something—to see it through to the end—that’s not always easy.
It takes time. Patience. Faith. And those aren’t always easy to come by. We don’t always find them by looking within or looking around. But when we look up, and listen to the still, small voice of God that whispers to us when we take time to listen, we will know the path to take. We will know how to complete what we have begun … and what He has begun in our lives.
In a way, we all are God’s unfinished business. He has started a lot of “projects” that are well begun, even perfect in their own right, but they are not complete. The work of the Master on His creation continues: the molding, the shaping, the cutting, the polishing. It all comes with the promise: “He makes all things beautiful in His time.” [[Ecclesiastes 3:11 (paraphrased)]]
And look at that, an article that is actually complete!