This summer I’ve been in the middle of a bunch of projects, some that have been hanging around for ages, and I’m in the mood to just get them done. It’s been my battle cry for much of the summer—Get Stuff Done. Finish Old Things. Move On. Start New Ones.
I’m amazed at how easily projects get stale, and I think that it impedes our ability to move into the fresh and the new. I have this very untested theory that if we are holding on to old ideas that we still hope to make happen, it keeps us from having new ones. This may simply be a factor of our limit when it comes to juggling ideas and plans, but I have a suspicion that it is something more fundamental than that. I think the stale ideas may actually keep the fresh ones at bay. We hold on to the older plans, and because of them, we do not see the new possibilities all around us. We have eyes that are turned behind us, and we cannot as easily see what is right in front.
And I find it a little strange, but is seems that ideas are oddly often for a time. A story or a thought that seems revelatory or new when first proposed may seem dated and a little sad three years later.
It’s not that the idea got old, but the stream of thought that birthed it moved on. It’s amazing how much our cultural conversation and interactions drive what emerges in our creative thought. This is not to say that there are not fundamentally universal and timeless truths that can be communicated, but somehow the way we do the communicating is hinged to the larger conversation around us.
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it is just my looking at the same project for years that makes me tired of it. I think it was Steven King who said something about how you write a book in three weeks or you don’t write it. At the time I heard that, it seemed a little extreme, but then I realized that there is a drive and impetus for the writing and that can fade. The train of thought and momentum can slow, and the writing can become a slog. I am finding that is a little bit true as I seek to finish old projects.
But I’m not sure that it is just writing that suffers from languishing on the shelf. Even cleaning out my bathroom cabinets seems to fall prey to this potential reality. After years it’s hard to part with the items that have become expected, even if not used. They become the world around me, and wresting them from my shelf is possibly harder than if I had done it earlier. Of course if the items get old or dated, then I can just throw them out, so there is that.
Regardless of my theory or inclination to think that projects and plans and ideas might have a shelf life, I am working hard this summer to wrap things up. Find an ending to a story, finish a book project, actually put together a website. I have been a list fiend all in the hopes of getting the old things done, so that I can move on to the new.
And it’s exciting. I have a new e-book coming out hopefully this fall about engaging young people in writing for fun. That’s been a new project, and it still feels fresh and I’m excited to have it launch before it gets moldy.
I also have a new website and a couple of older books and stories that will hopefully be up and available soon. But until then, I am going to keep working to wrap up loose ends, clean out the cabinets, jettison what I don’t need to finish, and move into all the possible and exciting things that are out in front of me.
Maybe in this late summer season, it’s a good time to think about all the things it’d be nice to finish up. And maybe there are things that need to just be cut loose. Not every idea or project has to happen. Sometimes we let go of them to move into who we are today.
During these hot days of August as we look to a new start in the fall, we can begin to think about what we are holding on to and if those are the things we want to be filling up our hands and our days right now. And after we answer that question, then maybe we can embrace the new with gusto because we have made space to welcome the fresh possibilities with open hands.