Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Life Lesson Relearned

Warning: This life lesson applies only to leisure and retirement hours, not to real work in the real world.

 A dear friend once told me I never seemed to finish a project. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, so unfinished projects consisted of everything from college to crocheted granny squares never assembled into a final product.

My friend was right. A couple of years later, I went back to school and finished work toward my bachelor’s degree, then began a career in business. At work and at home, I finished everything I started, and I only took on tasks I knew I could complete on time.

If I began reading a book, I stuck with it until the end. If I took a class in advanced accounting theory toward a master’s degree, even if I hated the class, I stayed the course and earned an A.

I no longer wanted to be that person who never finished a project.

But I grew older, as we humans do, and wiser. I retired from that real world job. And I rediscovered a long forgotten talent—the ability to abandon a task before completion.

I no longer finish reading every book I buy or check out of the library. The first ten pages have to grab my attention and the next ten pages must keep me reading. And if the story loses me fifty or a hundred pages later, I set it aside. Life is too short to waste time on a book I don’t enjoy.

The bananas I buy for banana blueberry muffins might get mashed with lemon juice and stored in the freezer…..until I have to throw them out because of freezer burn. I love the idea of baking, and certainly enjoy the finished goodies, but I am a champion of procrastination when it comes to gathering ingredients, preparing the muffin tins, and turning on the oven.

The box of colorful granny squares may still be a box of granny squares when the kids come to clean out the house and move me to a nursing home. Truth is, I love crocheting granny squares, but assembling them into a shawl or pillow cover is not fun for me.

I may take another painting class one of these days. I still have a couple of blank canvases and a few good paintbrushes. I’ll need all new paints, of course, because the old tubes have dried out. Watercolors were especially rewarding. I still have the one decent painting I completed before abandoning, perhaps temporarily, that hobby.

The camera needs to have its battery charged….again….before I go out to practice what I learned at an all-day beginning photography class at the local community college. I bought the camera and took the class almost two years ago. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next instead of writing or foodie blogging.

I don’t need to finish every project I start. I can dabble, return books to the library unread, try something new for five minutes or a day, sign up for a class and drop out if it doesn’t meet my needs, flit from idea to obsession and back again. If I write five pages of a new story and decide it’s a stupid idea, I can hit the delete key and write something better.

The feeling is liberating and challenging. Hopefully I have enough years ahead of me to dabble and flit to my heart’s content.


Dead Wrong's official release date is Wednesday, November 19th. My one big booksigning and party is scheduled for Saturday, December 13th, but I need to spread the word far and wide well before holiday shoppers hit the bookstores.

If you're willing, please send the Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble link for Dead Wrong to one good friend who enjoys reading suspense novels and thrillers. Two friends would be even better.

And please put in a request for your local library to purchase a copy of Dead Wrong by Patricia Stoltey ISBN-13: 9781432829865

I'll be extraordinarily grateful.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - What a fabulous post! Life really is far too short to be caught up in finishing every single thing we start. I've had experiences like that too, where I had an idea for baking/making/building something and it just didn't happen. And there's nothing wrong with that. And as for books? I'm completely with you. I don't finish every book I start. Life's too short for that too.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Ah, a kindred soul who doesn't always finish what she starts. I think this finally takes over once we accept our mortality, Margot. :D

E.J. Wesley said...

Learning to let things go is such a huge component of writing, so it doesn't surprise me to hear you practice outside of writing as well. As you say, time is a precious commodity (perhaps the MOST precious), and taking charge of how you use it (or don't) is incredibly empowering. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Empowering is a good word for it, E.J. Knowing I have those options makes me feel more in control of my life.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You'll certainly get to experience a lot more that way.
And life is too short to read bad books.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Alex -- I agree. Plus I have a lot of interests so sampling each works better for me than focusing on one big goal forever. I guess I would have never made it as a ballerina, gymnast, Olympic skater, etc. etc.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. I can quite see what you're saying - it's interesting we'll finish things for others .. but not for ourselves ... I must get myself out and get on with things ...

Thanks for the reminder of 10 pages into a book .. and I must read yours - it will be December I'm afraid .. and I'm sure I'll be reading the whole thing ..

All the best - Hilary

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Hilary! My stack of "must reads" is probably as high as yours. I'm so far behind. However, more than ever that means I give a story ten or twenty pages to get my attention. We readers are tough! :D

Anonymous said...

Great post, Pat. I have lots of unfinished projects and unrealized goals, but you're right, there's nothing wrong with that. I think as long we keep making life interesting by dabbling in different activities and hobbies, it'll be all right.

Shannon Baker said...

Maybe you give yourself permission to walk away, but you've proven tht you can and do stick to it when it suits you. You can't publish books if you have no follow-through! There might be a part of you that's a flitter, but a big part of you is a finisher! I'm glad for that.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Yes, April, unfinished projects can actually be good. That way we always have something to go back to when we get writer's block. :D

Hi Shannon. You're so sweet....but if I was really a finisher, I'd have written and published a dozen novels by now.

M. K. Theodoratus said...

Interesting post. There's another side to the coin. Not starting anything you aren't committed to finishing.

As for books that loose me half-way through ... I seldom rate them more than 3. Someone else might loved them, but just not me.

Eileen Goudge said...

Pat, kudos to you for coming clean! I think there's something to be said for dipping in and out of various pursuits, however. It leads us to what we really enjoy doing, and can't NOT do. By the way, I also crochet, though not as well as you - if that makes you feel better about all those granny squares.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Great post! I often feel like I have to finish everything I start or be the best at it or become an "expert" in whatever the subject. Now, I like the idea of "dabbling" - sounds much more freeing. :)

John Paul McKinney said...

Pat, I've got stashes of yarn you wouldn't believe and three projects on needles at the moment. There's a pile of beautiful cherry wood that's been in the garage for three years, waiting to be made into a coffee table, or a book case. Oh, well, some day! Glad to hear I'm not alone.