Unfinished Business

November 2nd, 2010 by admin | Print Unfinished Business

Prompt: Something you hate about yourself.

There’s a problem that I’ve had throughout my life that has caused me more heartache, stress, and general mental anguish than anything else.  Ironically, this problem is not external, but internal:  I have trouble finishing things.

I’ve written before about projects of mine that never came to fruition; some never left the drawing board, while others made it to 85% done but never saw completion.  It’s a problem I’ve had since childhood, and it’s one that can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as well: if I am convinced that I’m not going to finish something, I’m even less likely to do so.  It also never happens the same way twice, which complicates my attempts to find a solution to the problem.

This tendency can cause creative paralysis like no other, which is ironic because it often comes out of creative excess.  Many times a project is dumped because some new idea of mine has taken its place in my mind’s spotlight, a project which will, in turn, likely be consigned to the dust bin when some even newer, shinier idea comes along.  I’ve always joked that the best way to get me to come up with a new project is to assign me an extant one to work on.  It’s not that I become bored with the old one, but that in working on the old project, I come up with new, often more refined, ideas that I want to explore. In college this caused me to have projects with scopes as wide as an Oklahoma prairie, but now, later in life, it causes me to have an infinite number of tiny, ever more fractioned, more specific projects.  I feel like I’ve gone from running Wikipedia to running 50 different single-serving sites.

I worry about this tendency and its potential effect on The Mongolian Experiment.  I’m attempting to thwart it by involving other people, by making myself much more invested in the project (both emotionally and financially), by holding myself accountable to groups larger than myself.  But, I still worry.  The more I work on TME, the more I think about other, similar projects that I want to do later.  The new ideas end up hurting the very core idea that they were born from!  I guess you could say that I have trouble saying “No” to an idea.

The reason this is something I hate about myself is that I feel that it is a story that has repeated itself over and over in my life: it causes me to feel like someone with a lot of potential but not a lot of success.  I constantly feel like I’m on the cusp of something big, but the break never comes and I end up endlessly ruminating about what I did wrong, or what I could have done better.  Ironically it is a constant state of near-success that makes me feel like a failure.  By all rights, I should be happy that I have so many good ideas, but really, I’d be happier if I only had a few and had the wherewithal to follow through with them.

[Photo by Steven Depolo]