What Does It Mean to Finish?

I just received the first paperback copy of my new memoir Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma -- finally! Even though it is merely the ARC (advanced readers' copy), I am very excited.  Now I can say that after three years of work, I am finally seeing the finished product.

Having written that, I realized how frequently use the word "finally".

I remember being raised by my father's teachings which he often delivered via slogans: "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  A stitch in time saves nine. A rolling stone gathers no moss." and so on.  His consistent message was, never procrastinate -- do things immediately and completely. So, if we "finally" completed a chore after a lot of coaxing, he would sigh, "Finally!"

Interestingly, Dad practiced what he preached, for I don't remember him ever "wasting" a moment of time. Perhaps his compulsive need to finish projects developed because of his Protestant work ethic, or possibly because of his post trauma anxiety, resulting in the need to keep compulsively busy. (I discuss this more in my memoir.) I will never truly know the basis for Dad's slogans, but they certainly penetrated my psyche. 

So, what does it mean to finally finish? I believe that to complete any creative project in both life and art, we need all of the five elements of creative energy.

curiosity

courage

consistency

commitment

completion. 

This blog post is about the third and fourth elements -- consistency and commitment.  (See a complete discussion of the four elements in my first blog post.)

Consistency means to be have a steadfast adherence to the same creative and aesthetic principles, as well as the planned course of action and the desired outcome.

Commitment means to be reliably dedicated until the desired creative outcome is achieved.  I once had a mentor say we need "ruthless determination."

The only way we can achieve the results of our creative visions is by maintaining a consistency of practice, as well as a commitment to ourselves and our creative project. When my father saw in his mind's eye a new manufacturing dairy after his existing one burned down, he didn't waste a minute.  Instead, using both consistency and commitment he worked hard every day to realize his dream of a bigger and better dairy.  

Of course, the creative process is never linear.  I love the quote from producer Carlton Cuse.

 "The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lightning bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there's ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it's really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow."  

Still, it is only with consistency and commitment can we complete what we creatively envisioned -- until we finally finish. 

That of course brings forth the question, what does it mean to finish a project? If we are supposed to be focused on the process and not the product, is it okay to declare something finished?  Yes, but with a caveat -- that we still primarily focus on every step of our creative process as we move toward the completion. 

In other words, it is best to hold two awarenesses simultaneously -- that of the ongoing creative process, as well as the desired product.   

This is the case with my new memoir, Painting Life.  It was incredibly rewarding to see the advanced copy of my book, for now I have completed one phase -- and I emphasize phase -- of this creative project. There is more to be done.

Then, that beckons yet another question.  In art, just as in life, is there is really any such thing as saying something is completely "finished"?  This will be the subject of my next post.  Connect with me again for, "What Does it Mean to Complete a Creative Project?"  

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