Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Are You A Finisher?

One of the questions I posed to recent students was, "Are you a finisher?"

The question relates to the syndrome of starting work but not staying with the work to completion. I asked the question because not completing work kills our ability to move forward. How can you go to "the next" piece without knowing how the previous one was resolved. The resulting artistic limbo produces fear and anxiety and erodes our self-confidence.

This morning I was re-reading a chapter in one of the books I listed in my recent Reading List. The book is Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy. In Chapter 8 he discusses the concept of The Master Goal which he defines as inner peace and how we might work toward that. One of the major elements that robs us of inner peace is the "Incomplete Action". When I read that it reminded me of the issue of not finishing our work. Brian says, "Each of us has within us a "compulsion to closure" or an "urge to completion." We feel happy and contend when we finish a job, or achieve a goal. We feel Unhappy and stressed when we leave something undone or incomplete."

I think this is true. It's that nagging worry that you can't identify. It's that feeling of dissatisfaction that doesn't go away. Are there works that are not "worth" your time and effort? I think so but if you have a history of not completing what you begin I recommend making a list of those things. Evaluate the list and make some decisions as to either finishing them or discarding them. The very act of making a decision will feel good and feed that feeling of inner peace that Brian Tracey speaks about. You likely will also find you feel lighter and more focused.

I have a stack of strip pieced fabric that is just sitting on the floor staring at me. I'm not going to use it so I'm making the decision to pass it along to some of my friends. I'll feel much better.

Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you and remember:

Commenting is FREE!!


  1. I made a decision for myself at the beginning of this year that I would get back to finishing work! When I picked up fabrics a few years ago, I focused on learning surface design and didn't worry about actually creating any art pieces. I started to feel restless and as if all the knowledge I was gaining was going to waste.

    In the last eight months, I can't even count the number of art pieces I've completed, but I've been thrilled with my output. I'm not sacrificing design or quality of construction just to say I finished a piece, either... each one gets time, attention to detail, and a pat on its tush as it leaves my work space for photography or storage.

    Great post, lady. :D

  2. What a wonderful comment! Congratulations! The part I love the most is that you are giving yourself time to absorb and then move ahead. xo, T

  3. Working on multiple projects works for me...rather than one piece at a time. Not everything gets finished but many do. Rather than killing my ability to move forward it actually ignites a creative spark. Some of my projects actually sort of sit and simmer...if that makes any sense.

  4. Ahhh. This is just exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thanks Terry

  5. Hi MariQuilts. Yes, I like your process. I'm thinking about artists who regularly put unfinished work aside and are unable to come back to it for completion. I love the ideas of "simmering".

    Hello Leslie! Glad you enjoyed the post. I made my list and I'll be working it ;-)

  6. I like to work on more than one piece at the same time. Especially if i challenge myself to try out something new. Here the decisions don't always come easy. Often there are technical decisions to make and i just "have to think it over" which path I intend to follow. But "mental struggle" works for me, because it means the path is not an obvious one. So i like to make the distinction: if the project still stirs my interest, I'll put away but definitely continue, if it bores me, I will stop wasting my time.
    It is seldom, that i leave a project unfinished. I value my own work too much not to try to get a result. But it happens... And even then I like to contemplate it and reflect what went wrong. If I don't get any results, at least I try to get some experiences... Seriously, I think it is not a bad thing, to get some distance from your work, lay it down for a while, work on something else and return to it after some time. But this kind of attitude needs discipline to come back to the work and evaluate what is not right - something is usually wrong if I'm not quite satisfied with it - pick the values of the work and develop them on an another way.
    I guess we all have UFOs in our boxes. If there is not too many of them, I can live with it. If I decided, that the work is not something I will continue, than I would rather give them away as well, be done with it and move on to something more challenging.

  7. Thank you Beata! I like your thinking. It is absolutely necessary at time to get some distance between your work and yourself. I have more concern with artists who just never finish anything and much to my surprise this is a problem for lots of people. People who don't make art often make jokes about the artists as someone who is undisciplined but that, as you mentioned, is not a correct evaluation. Discipline mixed with a large dose of dedication is required. My best, T

  8. I gave away some unfinished, more traditional designs sitting in the cupboard, when I changed my focus to art quilts. It felt good to release myself from guilt over not completing. Now I finish most things as I love what I do.

  9. I am and I'm not. If things are going well with a piece, I can't wait to finish it. But sometimes I have to leave things to study them before I continue.

    I am also known to ditch dogs if they are really bothering me by hanging around much too long. When that happens, it lifts my spirits and I can create again.

  10. Hi Linda, That is a great description of how you deal with processing your work. You deal with things and move ahead. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Good grief! The idea of working on only one piece at a time would send me into the loony bin. Boredom with a capital B!

    In fact, pieces often resolve themselves when you leave them to percolate and go on to something else. When you go back to them, often they will tell you what they need. My next book touches on this, on how to reinvent UFOs (yes, it's great fun to do this and worth every minute --mostly) and what to do with those pieced strips. Ha - I'll happily take some if you want to ditch 'em. But then I would have to "reinvent" those because they have your "fingerprint" on them, not mine. Nice challenge!

    There's no question in my mind that HOW we work has everything to do with our Myers-Briggs profile -- but that's probably a subject for a post on my blog...when I finish the three things I am working on this minute - LOL.

  12. Thank you Rayna. I think your idea of personality types is valid and I also think the techniques and process you use in making your work makes a big impact on how work. The timing of surface design processes is so different from piecing etc. Always great to hear from you!

  13. I have had 2 pieces in the last two years that keep popping out of the heap- begging for another look. And so I take them out, hang them up, and decide to put them back in the heap.For me this ends up being a somewhat disquieting process with me worrying about my worth, talent... you name it. So the last time one of them reared its head, I did not fuss, instead I cut it up into the most glorious squares and made potholders for some dear family members. Now it is out of my stash, out of my mind, and very happily sitting in kitchens all over the globe.

    I have learned to trust my instinct on what is good and what needs to leave or else it will turn into a distraction from my real art.

  14. Thank you Judy. I really appreciate your summation. If the piece has something to teach you, fine. But if it is, as you said, a distraction it's time for the work to go!