Nothing is ever totally finished.
There might be the point you stop working on something. There might be the point you reach some arbitrary goal you have set (be it 50000 words, or a ten book publishing contract). But nothing is complete. There is always more that could be done.
So everyone, all the time, leave things unfinished.
But I think there is more to unfinishing than that. The reasons I came up with this web site, and my project to place my unfinished projects in public are not so much about the act of not finishing as they are about me.
The first reason I have begun unfinishing is that I think value in anything you do, or think, only comes when that idea is shared. I’ve written about it before. By publishing, by making it available, I am adding some value (even if all I am adding is examples of how not to write)
The second reason I have begun unfinishing is that unfinishing allows you to start. I’ve had many ideas, too many. Most I have left to drift away because I don’t want to make a start, because I know I won’t follow them through to the end, or I know I’ll find something more interesting. If you’re set on finishing, then projects like that never get off the drawing board – if they even make it that far, because in a world where finishing is your goal, the unfinished work is failure. But in unfinishing, the moment you have made anything public, you have improved the world a little. You have shared some of yourself.
And in the same vein, unfinishing is about choice. If you start without the intention to finish, then there is never a feeling you need to continue if something better comes along. At any moment you are free to choose, to follow your muse. To pick off where you left off yesterday, last month or last year, or to start on a crisp new sheet of paper.
A forth reason is that I’m increasingly taking the view that, in life, your job is not to become mediocre at everything, but rather to excel at those things you are gifted in. Too often we look at those things we struggle with as necessary evils that must be endured so we can survive life as it should be. But we define life as it should be. And often we have inherited the should from other people, other times and other situations. I’m trying to embrace who I am, not who I once believed I ought to be. And there are things I don’t enjoy finishing. There are books I’ve left half unread, films I left half unwatched, and thoughts I’ve yet to finish thinking all the way through. I could struggle against this.l I could become a completist, completing everything even if it pains me. I could make my work more perfect, more closely checked, smoothing every rough edge until my hands bleed. Or I could embrace me. I could accept that I won’t finish everything. And I could try – however vaguely – to turn it into a virtue.
Finally an unfinished state is about the state itself, not about the product. When you plan on finishing, you are performing the work to get to that point of finality. You are hitting your head against a wall for the sense of relief and joy when the wall finally cracks, crumbles and falls down. But when you are unfinishing you are doing the work for the works sake. You are running because you like the feel of the wind in your hair, not because you want the medal at the end of the track. Unfinishing is about joy now, not potential joy tomorrow.
Up until this point, the things I have published here have reached some form of completeness – there are two NaNoWriMo winners and something I haven’t worked on for so long that I’m unlikely to revisit it. But I have projects that have been ongoing in my head, in moleskines, in scribbles on paper littered on my desk, in google docs and in random text files over any number of random computers, and going forward it will not only be the incomplete but abandoned, but also the incomplete and ongoing that I post here.
Next up – unless I unfinish this commitment – Egg an idea for a teenage fantasy novel which has been with me for five or so years at least.