Well, here we are. Another year is about to close and a new one will start in mere hours. I rarely take time to look back over the past year, choosing instead to look forward to the new one. The old is done, I’m ready to move on!
I see a lot of people posting photo collages of quilts they’ve finished this year, or writing out lists of things they accomplished. Others are busy making lists of resolutions for the coming time. I don’t do well with lists of resolutions at all. Usually I allow them to be eclipsed by daily life and have forgotten most of them by mid-January. I guess you could say I don’t put much stock in finishing what I start.
It occurred to me recently, though, that my attitude just might be the source of a lot of the stress in my life. I am always ready to readjust my sights and move forward once I think I’ve finished something. The problem is that I don’t always really finish.
Around my house, I have piles of paperwork, dishes sitting out, or clothes still in the dryer. These things drive me crazy, but to my way of thinking, they are done: the bill is paid, the dishes are clean, and the laundry is clean and dry. But I realized that things aren’t really done until they’re done, you know? The bill isn’t really paid until the checkbook is put away, the envelope is put in the mail, and the bill stub is filed. The dishes aren’t really done until they are all put away. And the laundry, sigh, the laundry, isn’t finished until it’s back in the drawer or closet. (Honestly, laundry is never really done anyway, but we’re going to pretend that it is at least once in a while.) The point is that a task isn’t really finished until all of the steps are complete. This means putting things away, finishing all the parts of a task, not considering it good enough.
In quiltmaking, for example, once I see what something is going to look like, my brain is done. There is no real joy in continuing to work because I have solved the puzzle. Consequently, I have piles of unfinished projects taking up space in my workroom. Now I know that lots of us have tons of UFOs hanging around but, seriously, how much easier would it be to have them done and in use? How much stress do we create for ourselves by carrying around the thought that, “I’ve got to finish that quilt for so-and-so’s baby, somebody’s graduation, the back of the couch.” And how often do we not start something we really want to do because of the backlog taking up space?
In my workroom, I can show you any number of things that are “done but for borders,” or “done but for binding.” Well, the truth is, they are not done at all. They might be nearly done or, as I’ve said in the past, “all but done (ABD),” but they are not finished. As creative people who work visually, it can be difficult for a lot of us to stay on task and not go running off to the next shiny thing. I confess to some serious inability here. Many of my friends enjoy yelling, “Squirrel!” just to see me lose all concentration.
One thing I’ve enjoyed doing for the last couple of years is choosing a word of the year. This idea first came about in the scrapbooking world. Ali Edwards (designer, author, all-around memory keeper) started the idea of One Little Word (R) in 2006. That word was meant to be one you chose, thought about, and acted on throughout the year. I loved the idea of one simple word that I could carry around in my pocket like a lucky coin or a touchstone. It’s easy to lose a list of resolutions, harder to misplace a single word.
Late in December every year I start thinking about what my word for the next year will be. I choose words at random and live with them for a few days and see if they fit what’s on my mind. I can’t even tell you what the runners-up for next year were because once the one I chose popped into my head I was sure that was it. I didn’t commit to it right away because, well, that squirrel-thing. I AM easily distracted (ahem). But I’ve thought on this one now, carried it in my pocket, and rolled it and tasted it like a piece of hard candy, swirling it around with my tongue to get the real flavor of it. And yes, I like it. Very much.
With that in mind, my word for 2016 is FINISH. Most of the definitions of the word involve bringing something to completion, and that is my goal. I am hoping to get things finished.
There is also a variation of the word with which I’m interested: “finish” may also include a thing’s ultimate decoration, the quality of the workmanship employed to complete it. The word brings to mind my father’s work with wood. He has always stressed the importance of a good finish (smooth, properly applied, and free of extraneous matter). In quilt terms, assuming that piecing or appliqué is competently done, this can translate to the actual quilting. I usually quilt by check and have some wonderful longarm quilters in my network who I will definitely continue to use. I would, though, like to improve my own machine quilting skills. I can do a serviceable job with my own machine, but certainly nothing stellar. I also love hand-quilting but rarely give it much time. I would like to change that.
I hear people say, “Done is better than perfect.” Sometimes I agree. Sometimes I don’t. I never plan to achieve perfection in my work but I do like knowing I’ve done my best. So, while done might be better, well-done is best. Can I achieve both? I’d like to think so.
In looking ahead to 2016, finishing (along with finishing well) is my focus. I have something specific in mind to help me achieve that goal. I will tell you more about it next time, so please check back. In the meantime, I have to go finish binge-watching the past seasons of Downton Abbey before the next season starts on Sunday!
Goodbye 2015 and hello 2016! I hope it brings you the very best.
Until next time,
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