Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hard-working Art

"Good ideas are common - what's uncommon are people who'll work hard enough to bring them about." ~Ashleigh Brilliant

The compulsion to create is strong in some people. Whether it's to be an artist, a writer, a poet, an engineer, or whatever. Something inside us innately wants to create and then share that creation with the world. Few people, however, actually act upon the urges to take an idea and see it through to completion. If you're like me, you have to fight the desire to a) talk about your idea so long that you waste all your energy on that and never get the darn things beyond the inception form or b) show it to the world before it's ready, before it's the best that it can be. Both of these end up damning the project from ever reaching its potential to become something beautiful.

I'm like this with art and with writing for sure.

Here are two examples:

1. I love to create mosaic tables. But they are time intensive and sometimes they don't get finished. One particularly large table has been sitting in my garage incomplete for FIVE years. (Good grief, has it really been that long?!) I call it the Tree of Life (cliche, I know):
2. I lost my steam on a particular beloved novel because I showed friends and critique partners too early. Sixty pages in I lost the voice of the story and had to set it aside. Here are the first three (rough) paragraphs on that book. (It's an amalgamation of several Lithuanian folktales and I call it Cottage by the Sea):

She was called dukte, daughter dearest, while her parents were still alive. Rarely did they call her Dalia, her given name. Mother and father, their smiles were ever on her, the flush of love and glitter of fondness in their cheeks and gracing their eyes. If her father was not smiling at his precious and only child with his mouth, the wrinkles around his eyes were not far from obliging. It could not be helped, who else had a daughter of red-gold hair and eyes the color of the sea? She was a jewel, a rare piece of amber, and if left to herself, would polish and glow into something grand, he was sure. He was a merchant, after all, and knew a good product when he saw one.

And so the indulged daughter was left to her seven year old self, to roam the nearby woods and gardens of their household, coming home with torn skirts and unplaited hair more than not. Still they would smile upon her disheveled frame. Then one day the smiles faded and her mother became confined to her bed. Dark shadows inhabited her father’s once-glittering eyes and the lines of laughter turned to ones of worry. Servants whispered in hushed tones, healers were called in, experts in blood-letting and the humors. Totems and songs to ward off doom were cast about in hopes of driving out evil spirits from the household.

And the smiles that once graced the child were no more. She found herself alone, unheeded, and haunting a soulless house. Often her wanderings would lead her to wait in the darkened steps below her mother’s room, a place where she could hear the murmur of the adult’s voices unnoticed.

So my questions to you are:

1. Do you leave great ideas unfinished, some never to come to fruition? If so, why?

2. What creations (other than writing, if you're a writer) do you like to make? (And I didn't ask about PROcreations, so don't list those. Get your heads out of the gutter, people. Ha, ha.)


  1. I do leave great ideas unfinished--and many times because something greater (in my eyes) takes up my time.

    Other creations--I like scrapbooks, in school ceramics...and for a period of time cake decorating.

  2. Your "Tree of Life" is gorgeous, and I want to know more about your story.

    I like short projects like poetry and balloon creatures for this very reason. They aren't as satisfying as the projects (gardening, novels) that take years to create though.

    I do have unfinished projects. I like to think I'll finish the best ones someday.

  3. The projects that I tend to leave unfinished are photo albums. I have hundred of photographs from over the years, neatly filed away in their envelopes, waiting for my attention :(

  4. I think your story has a lyrical voice. I quite like it. I hope you revisit it some day.

  5. Jackee-

    Listen to me....finish your book.

    I rarely show anything to anyone for commentary until I have a draft done. It IS too easy to lose heart, even if the comments are mild...someone might not have understood where you were going and the questions make you think that maybe you didn't know where you were going and continuing is hard.

    I share snippets with my writing group when I want to hear how something sounds, but I don't ask for feedback until a draft is done. That's just me. When I've invested enough of myself into a piece that a draft gets completed, then I'm really hungry for feedback because I can only envision things the way they are on the page....and readers can see things in different ways.

    Readers can really be a gift...at the right time.

    I have given up on ideas for a while, but no idea that I have fallen in LOVE with ever goes away All the way. Sometimes I'll take bits of it and morphed them into something else. Sometimes they just sit, waiting for me to solve the puzzle that will lead to their completion.

    Finish it.

    It begins with a lovely voice.

    Does it still call to you? If so, finish it.


  6. What a lovely snippet of story and I'm sorry you lost your steam. Do you try going back to it occasionally? I have a feeling you'll finish it when the timing is right. (Beautiful table!)

  7. Oh, yes, I'm a binge scrapper, too. I'll not look at my kid's scrapbooks for months, and then I'll work like crazy on them.

  8. I love the beginning of that story. Please finish it!

    I have a book that I thought I was finished with, but it was my first book and it really needs a rewrite. I've tried to go back to it, but I just can't get into it anymore. Even though I think the story is good and the writing just needs to be spiffed up, I've tried and just can't get interested in it again. So for now it sits unfinished. Maybe, like MG said, I'll finish it when the timing is right.

  9. Sarah: Oh, those Shiny New Ideas are such buggers to control. They always want to take over in my world too! Those other activities sound great! And thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

    Myrna: Thank you! I like to think that I'll finish my To Be Written pile someday too. And sounds like you are a bit of a multi-hobby person like me--gardening in particular is great.

    Joanne: I have the same problem. Only, unfortunately, they are usually in digital form and I never get them printed off. My poor kids! (And that's great that you at least file them away. I'm impressed that you're that organized!)

    Laura: Thank you so much! I plan on revisiting it someday. It's too important to me to not at least try. And you just made my day by calling me "lyrical". All my favorite authors are called "lyrical" in their reviews. :)

    Shelley: LOL! What did I ever do before you were my friend?! You are so right. I WILL finish it someday. It still speaks to me, wanting to get out. It just needs to wait its turn now. And from now on I'm following your advice and using my wonderful readers only after a draft is done. Thank you for your encouragement!

  10. Melissa: I hope you are right. Because I would like to return to that story, it just hasn't taken its turn yet, though. And thank you for liking the writing and the table! :)

    Myrna: I once had a boss who seemed to get more done than anyone I know. I asked him how he did it and he said he didn't spend the day doing a little bit of everything, but rather worked like mad on focal things as the need arose. I imagine you do that with your scrapbooking and I imagine it's a pretty productive way to do it! :)

    Susan: Thank you for liking the book! I appreciate that. And I agree with Melissa, timing is everything. Maybe it's time to step away from your WIP and get run with a new idea for awhile.

  11. I think it's a nice start. You have a flair for words. It may need some more action, but that's for future drafts.

    Don't look at the contents of my laptop. I have about six or seven beginnings. Most I abandoned because a better idea hit me. A couple were because I was too busy editing another piece. One was because it wasn't fantasy. If it's not fantasy, I don't know how to proceed.

    I love the mosaic table - you should get back to it!

  12. I would really like you to finish that story. Please. I said please so I think now you have to.

    I am the worst for getting SUPER AWESOME ideas and then having them fade out after my excitement wanes. And that's not just for ideas. It also happens with jobs, places I'm living, husbands. I'm not exactly sure what to do about it though.

    I've often had great ideas for stories when laying in bed but then the next day I'm like, "Meh. Not so great. Phew, now I don't have to actually write it". I think I'm basically just lazy.

  13. Look at you go with the table! Wow...it's awesome!!

    I think the other problem that keep people seeing something through to completion is trying to make it too complex. Sometimes a small and simple idea can spin out of control, and become too big; too complex, and then it becomes difficult to finish.

    You know me...I always start projects that I never finish. I still have an unfinished dress that I was making for Ashlynn (about 5 years ago) hanging in my laundry room. And then there's the scrapbooks...although I'm getting better now that I use HM. I've found that I'm better if I keep my projects small and manageable, or break them into sections that I can work on separately. If the project is too big and takes too long to do, I get frustrated. I'm all for quick and easy these days. It must be my 2 year old attention span.

  14. Theresa: Yes, it was the only one of my books where I decided to start with backstory rather than action. But like you said, with a rough draft, anything goes. And those SNIs are killer on the WIPs, aren't they? I WILL get back to that table... someday... :)

    Notquiteawake: Thank you so much for your kind words, it made my day. I think we all have a bit of that laziness. I always worry that that's going to kill a great idea because sometimes I'm too lazy to even write them down! And I WILL get to this book again some day. Mostly because you said please. (Hee, hee.)

    Cass: I bet Ashlynn doesn't fit into that dress anymore. Ha, ha. Maybe you'll have to make it for your nieces. And that table I started BEFORE Kass was born. It was in my basement in Utah. I guess it's time to finish it. I'll set the deadline for this spring, all right? :)

  15. I work in spurts, which is good and bad. When I get in the mood for something, I can really devote my time and make it move. When the mood passes, blah.

    Lately I've been writing up a storm (or editing the storm), but now it's time to take a step back, catch up on Facebook, 2 weeks of others' blogs, and, if I still feel like it tonight, clean the carpets. Argh! See what a little sun can do to me?

    Finish that table. There aren't enough mosaics in the world. And your kids will fight over it when you're dead.

  16. "There aren't enough mosaics in the world." See? This is one of many reasons I love you. :)

    I'm glad you get all firey with your fingers because then I get to be one of the first to reap the benefits of your writing. Can't wait until we're both done to swap. (I wrote 7 pages today--pretty good considering the kids took all-too-short naps.)

  17. First, that was beautiful. I'm not sure what your target audience is though.

    At this point, three years in, I think everything I do is incomplete. I've had one story published in a magazine so far...I guess that is my only completed story. I put things to the side after I write the initial draft. I have a large file of first drafts...I think I need to "complete" some things before I can move on...

    I paint on occasion, make cards, and scrapbook. :)

  18. I have things I've left undone. The bad thing is if you wait to long to get back to it you’re a different person. I mean every 5-6 years we evolve, which is good, but the stuff we’ve left behind may no longer interest us or be on the same level.

    Oh, I love the mosaic you are working on.