Finishing the Bad Project

Oooh, now there’s a sticky subject!! Finishing. Let me be the first to admit, I’m a great project starter. I get enthused about a new concept, technique, object I want to make, and I’m off to the races. I love to try new things. Let me also be the first to admit, I’m not one of those people who finishes one project before starting the next. I can’t begin to comprehend the mindset which makes these people tick. I don’t have the discipline that forces me to finish what I start before jumping head first into another project. To me, life is an adventure, and half the fun of it is rushing off headlong down a rabbit trail (a new project) to see where it takes me. All roads eventually lead back to the UFO pile, though I might have enjoyed a lot of scenery along the way. Sometimes it’s that scenery that gives me fresh perspective or inspiration to get me back on track. Even better, sometimes I learn something new that makes an old project even better than the original plan.

I’d also like to state unequivocally that I don’t think starting projects without finishing the first ones is a character flaw any more than I consider the drive to finish first things first a character flaw. Though, as I said, I can’t comprehend those people.

I mentioned in a previous post that deadlines are often the source of “doneness” in a project such as crazy quilting where there’s no specific “finish line.” For me, a life without deadlines would be chaos, even more so than my life already is, with family, pets, farm animals, a business, playing, coaching, search & rescue… Take out the deadlines and nothing would get done.

Just to prove I do finish things, the purse from the previous post is finished, Pink Evening Pursebecause it had to be at the library yesterday morning for our annual Fiber Art show. This show, like other deadlines, is a great motivator to get projects done so I can participate in the show (aka show off).

Okay, so it’s one thing to finish projects you love, or are at least close to finishing. But what about those projects you really wish you hadn’t started? I sat with a friend at our weekly Threaders lunch on Tuesday and she was talking about a project she hated. The quilt was beautiful, and well worth completing, but she said she detested working on it. I have had projects like that. One I can remember was a mystery quilt which had a design that did nothing for me. Of course, one should go into a mystery quilt with the understanding that you may not like the result. If you can’t handle that possibility, stay home. Early on in the process, I knew I wasn’t going to love the finished quilt, but I forced myself to finish the project without working on anything else. Why? I knew that if I set it aside, I would never complete it. Because of the nature of the pattern, I also knew that mine was going to look just like everyone else’s and I couldn’t have that. So, while forcing myself to finish the quilt, I found a way to put my own personal stamp on it. Oddly enough, I like the way it turned out, and got lots of compliments on it. Sometimes perseverance has rewards beyond the actual completion of the project. Besides, if you bring a 10 year old project to show and tell, people will cheer when you announce you’ve finally finished it.

Another of those bad, bad projects was a paper pieced Christmas cactus quilt I did for my mother. This is where I discovered I detest paper piecing. Detest might be too mild a word. My mother loves Christmas cactii, and when I saw the pattern I knew it would make a lovely gift. The pattern is really beautiful, but it was the process I didn’t like. OK, hated. But since it was for a Christmas gift, and it quickly became too late to start another project, I persevered. That, and knowing how much my mother would love it kept me on task. I have never paper pieced another thing. It’s just not my thing. I don’t envy the people who do enjoy it, and it’s okay with me not to be one of them.

Sometimes there is value in learning that a particular technique “isn’t your thing.” Say you’ve purchased a few patterns or books on a specific technique, and you feel they are all hanging over your head because you really want to do them. Once you do one, and decide it’s not for you, you can sell, donate, burn, whatever, the other patterns or books, thereby liberating yourself from many nagging, undone projects. Chances are good that if they were good enough to be published, someone else will want to do them and be happy to give your castoffs a home. Thus, by letting go, you have given yourself a break and made someone else happy. What could be better?

So, how to get yourself to complete those bad projects? Well, bribery is a good technique. I frequently use chocolate chips or M&Ms to bribe myself. Work for 15 minutes or get a specific task done, and I get chocolate. Just like the chicken ringing the bell. If chocolate isn’t on your menu, there are other ways to bribe yourself. Is there a project you’d really rather be doing? Something new you want to try? Why not work on the bad project for an hour, or to a certain goal, then give yourself a treat by working on the fun project for a while? In this way, you can create balance between the need to complete and the desire to enjoy what you’re doing. Other than brutishly forcing myself to complete the project, which completely kills it for me, bribery is the best way for me to slog through.

We’ve covered the projects we intend to finish, but what about those that were doomed from the start? Do you need to waste precious time and emotional cash lamenting the unfinishable project? NO, I tell you, a resounding NO!!! Life is too short to regret the unfinishable. Give yourself the gift of letting go!

Okay, but the practical side of you is considering the dollars and time you’ve invested in this project. You can’t just throw it away! Or can you? Call it a waste and move on? This is something a lot of us can’t do. So maybe it’s time to look at how we can recover some of our expense. With beads and yarn, you can snip threads, unravel, and recoup the materials. With fabric it’s not so easy. If you’ve already cut the pieces, it’s pretty difficult to re-use them. Do you know someone who would love this project enough to complete it? Is there someone out there who loves the technique who would be happy to have it? Then make her day, at the same time liberating yourself, and hand it over. You’ll both be better off for it. If you don’t know anyone who’d like to have it, then donate it to your local thrift store. Thrift stores are filled with other people’s good intentions. One woman’s trash is another’s treasure, and I have brought home many a beautiful thread or component donated by someone who has liberated herself from that bad project anchor tied to her leg.

But what about the time you have invested? Time is something you can’t get more of, and what’s the point in throwing good time after bad? Time spent in resentment is worse than wasted. If you have 50 hours into a project and are looking at another 50 to finish it, and you’re still going to hate it when it’s done, I say give it up. Reclaim those would-be hours and spend them enjoyably. I spoke with a woman once who said she was going to take up quilting after she retired. I felt sad for her. I know of too many people whose life after retirement has been brutally short. How sad not to try something new because you were waiting until you had more time. She didn’t know what she was missing. To me, it’s even more sad to spend time doing something I really don’t like, just because I think I have to finish it before moving on to something new. More sad because I do know what I’m missing.

Until next time…

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3 Responses to Finishing the Bad Project

  1. Doni says:

    Greetings from another person who really does not like paper piecing.
    I will save half finished class projects etc. as a sample of what the class was about or a reminder as to how to do a technique. That justifies it’s presence and let’s me off the hook. My sister says, “Once it’s in the house, it all costs the same”.

  2. Melissa says:

    I love this post! SO true! I can’t just do one project either! I like to toggle, and I do the ‘have to’ and then a fun right after thing too! Operant Conditioning at it’s best! That’s how I train my dogs too with Positive Reinforcement.
    Now you’ve got me thinking if I have any UFO’s that I can just get rid of! Let them go…If I hate it, why keep it! LOL It’s my sewing ‘would be’s’ I HATE sewing! I only tolerate basic sewing as a means for FUN projects.

  3. Eve says:

    I can so identify with this post…I start out with perfectly good intentions but once I learn how to do something and make the first project, I tend to move on to something else .

    You said: “Sometimes there is value in learning that a particular technique “isn’t your thing.” ”
    Agree with that wholeheartly..I learned real quick that woodworking wasn’t my thing, when I realized that I am terrifed of sharp blades..LOL

    I think throwing things out or giving them away if you know you aren’t going to do them is a great idea..why have quilt staring you in the face all the time…

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