I have a lot of different projects I’ve not finished, but I never throw them away.
I know that even if I’ve lost enthusiasm for something, it will renew later. I’ve finished many things after allowing them to remain fallow for a long period of time. This is something about myself I have learnt, over the years. I stick with ideas and persevere with bringing them to fruition, but not by killing myself or forcing the work when it just won’t come. Patience is important.
Sometimes, you simply lack the requisite courage, temporarily.
Some things you make just don’t thrill you enough to finish them, then and there. There’s something missing you just can’t put your finger on, or the plan won’t gel in your imagination or else you realise you have to develop your skills further to do the work justice. For lots of reasons, I sometimes leave projects to brew and stew, while ideas to complete them percolate in my mind.
Strangely, I usually get on with something else, while I wait. Other works come quickly, without friction. It’s the damnedest thing.
Every now and then, going back to half-finished works amazes me, because seeing them again with fresh eyes often reveals that they were better than I thought, or at least a very promising start. You can learn a lot about yourself, your state of mind and the state of your artistic progress by reassessing frozen works in progress.
They also mark time. Your half-attempted works are like a diary of your artistic life. They remind you that your own life is finite and choices carry opportunity costs. You can’t do everything, all the time. It would exhaust you.
Occasionally, a work you abandoned just didn’t go right and is unsalvageable. Better to leave it in limbo, than complete it, only to find it is still unsatisfactory. Here’s where your taste can be very reliable. You can feel, before completing the work, that it would be still born. No sense in going all the way, with those ones. They’ll only diminish your body of work. It takes bravery and honesty to admit your artistic mistakes. There’s no shame in it.
There’s nothing wrong with making art for the fun of it. You don’t have to meet the expectations of external critics. They never need see or hear what you’ve made. Sometimes, you make things to please yourself and if you don’t finish them, or bring them to a high polish – well – there’s no law against it yet. It’s not compulsory.
Often, you can borrow from your own incomplete fragments, mash them together and get something remarkable. You just never know how your original artistic vision will morph and transform. You can surprise yourself.
There are few more satisfying moments than bringing a long ago stalled project to completion. I find the last bit comes in a rush, with a rare certainty about what to do to finish it. It’s like the assurance has built over time and finally reached a tipping point. Then, it’s released like a dam bursting. The flood is glorious.
I’ve found it’s best to harvest your creative ideas only when they’re ripe and ripening takes as long as it does, no matter how impatient you might be.
Yes, it would be nice to finish everything you start and it can drive those closest to you crazy, but the pressure to complete shouldn’t drive you crazy. I’ve seen unfinished paintings by Manet. They never will be finished, yet they still tantalise. You capture something of the artist’s method and approach in the raw sketch. You also wonder why this picture was never completed. Perhaps we’ll never know.
It’s your art. Take your own sweet time. You’ll be a better artist for it.