Sunday, March 23, 2008

Danger: Deadline Dead Ahead

Finish Line before the Finish..
There are two kinds of people in the world: project starters and project finishers. I am one of the world's greatest project starters. In the last year alone, I have started:
  • writing two novels, two nonfiction books, a picture book, several essays and this blog (on top of work-related writing).
  • organizing my office, bedroom, closets, kitchen, kids' rooms, photographs, and computer and paper filing systems.
  • knitting three scarves, sewing four Halloween costumes, and embroidering two cross-stitch projects.
  • spring cleaning, summer cleaning, fall cleaning and winter cleaning.
  • assembling several jigsaw puzzles.
  • reading countless books, magazines, articles and blogs.
  • updating our store Website.
  • researching dozens of other potential new projects.
I could go on, but I won't. The list is too long and depressing, and the list of finished projects is significantly shorter. My intentions are always good. Half the reason I started this blog was to give myself a deadline of completing two writing projects a week. (No fair looking at the dates of my posts. From the start, I said two-ish posts a week, although it may actually be closer to one post every two-ish weeks, but who's counting.)

Starting a project can generate a heart-pounding rush. There's the euphoria of a the idea itself, the thrill of a fresh beginning, and the shear joy of acquiring new supplies. Let's face it, laying in supplies is the best part — new spices for those cooking projects; new fabric or yarns for those needle-craft projects; and best of all, new office or art supplies for those creative writing projects. 

Once I've gathered the necessary provisions, I usually get a great jump off the starting block. The adrenaline rush alone can push me into the wee hours of the morning for days at a time.  But something always happens and, unless the project can be completed in a single session, chances are I won't finish it. Life gets in the way. Kids get in the way. New projects get in the way. After that, the new project becomes just another unfinished project — a guilt-inducing, energy-sapping stone around my neck.

My daughter, on the other hand, is a piston-firing project finisher. That girl gets more done than any human being I have ever met. Oh, sure, she's probably a little ADD and hyperactive, to boot, but she has harnessed that energy to fuel a well-oiled, multitasking machine. I'll give you just one example. 

On a recent school day, she got up, took out the dog, showered, dressed, blow-dried her hair, checked her email, printed her homework, ate breakfast, cleaned five inches of snow off the car, warmed up the car, shoveled the walk, came back in to make lunch, emptied the dishwasher, fed the dog and took her out again, then gathered her school stuff, her mother and brother and got them out the door — all before 7:30 a.m. 

On days like this, I stand clear of the dervish, watching in awe. Now granted, these are all short-term projects, but she offers finely honed planning and time-management skills, as well. When her whirling slows to less dangerous pace, I try to hug her often, in the hopes that some of that verve and tenacity will rub off on me. 

In my defense, despite chronic new-project-itis, I usually manage to get the important stuff done. And it's clear that I have chosen my career wisely. After all, what would a writer be without a deadline?

If you are a hopeless instigator, like me, you may want to check out Rita Emmett's Anticrastination Website (Rita belongs to my writing group.) Then click here to tell me your favorite kind of new project; or, if you are a dedicated project finisher, give me your best tip for getting things done. If you prefer, you may email me at


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much about the comment, I s'pose I am a good project finisher. Spring cleaning. Pfsttt. Too much cleaning if you ask me.

I love the anticrastination that's a good one.

Oh I have a tip: Don't procrasinate! :)

Anonymous said...

And one more thing. You're a sneaky one, writing a blog about starting and finishing projects, while using the results to start another project. Sneaky, sneaky.

Anonymous said...

That is one of the good things about cooking as a hobby — you've got to finish what you start.

Anonymous said...

I got a kick out of all the projects you start ... and know the syndrome. Now I only do ONE THING AT A TIME and only start something else when the first thing is finished — except for novel writing, which is an ongoing, interminably long (and delicious) process. Stephen says to put new ideas in an idea file. That way you don't lose them, but don't feel you have to throw yourself into them immediately. This approach allows ideas to germinate over a protracted period, giving the unconscious time to work and giving you the necessary compulsion, focus and push to finish something.

Suburban Correspondent said... old is your daughter, anyway? And she isn't ADD, not if she finishes what she starts.

I'm a project-starter, myself.

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