Piles of Unfinished Stories

Boy-FishingMy mother a woman of great vision, imagination, and versatility. She was also a woman with many unfinished projects. She was a painter and an renowned stained glass artist. She made glass sculptures and sand-blasted glass creations, did batik painting, created wearable art, and occasionally mixed several media in a single project.

After she died, I looked through the sizable stack of water color pieces she never had framed. Some were obviously practice or experimental pieces. Some seemed unfinished. Others may have been finished, but she hadn’t framed or hung them. How sad, I thought, that she had left so much unfinished work. With her talent, it seemed that she should have had more to show for her efforts.

Today I see that scrap pile quite differently. As I look around the houses of my siblings and children, as well as my own, I see her art hanging in places of honor. And now I recall that her work hung in many galleries, and lots of pieces sold.

I compare her work to my writing. Both are creative, but different in a fundamental way: words don’t disappear like a sold painting. I keep it all. And unlike art, story scraps can be revised and recycled.

But our work is alike in another way. I have a huge and growing pile of unfinished stories. Most will never be finished. Perhaps the thought was incomplete. Perhaps I started it awkwardly and failed to find a way to smooth it to a finish. Maybe I got distracted halfway through, lost interest, or covered the subject in another story. Whatever the reason, I’ve kept those scraps. I may finish them one day. I may combine some into longer stories. Collectively, they record my progress as a writer.

I also keep them because I practice what I preach: “Any lifestory you write is better than writing nothing.” And, “Someday somebody is going to appreciate that scrap.” Who knows whether anyone will ever take the time to read all the stories on my hard drive? All I know is that if I delete anything, they won’t have that choice.

If anyone does go through it, I no longer care what they think of my pile of unfinished and unpublished stories, and it no longer matters to me how many pictures my mother may have sold. I’ve come to understand the joy in the simple act of creation, and that it’s often enough just to get those words on paper, whether anyone reads them or not.

But I know that Mother would be happy that her work will be admired by her family for several generations to come as it is passes from one to the next. And although it’s enough to write for my own satisfaction, I do hope my stories will be appreciated at least as long as her art.

Write now: Read through some of your old stories and find inspiration for new ones, or ways to move a few along. But more than that, reread for your own pleasure and joy.


SuziCate said...

Thanks for the inspiration. I have so many unfinished pieces of work, both in writing and in art quilting. I'd rather work on them when I'm in the mood than to make myself do them. I think my work is better if I'm inspired than when I just feel obligated to do it. Some day I'll get there. After all, I whittled down the last pile of WIPs and created a new stack!

Sherrey Meyer said...

Sharon, I think we all have a wealth of unfinished stories. I know I do, and as well many unfinished quilting projects as well as knitting projects. I'm always working to finish something and often I go through them all and something happens to spur me on in that creative arena. I can only hope that someone will want to complete what I leave unfinished, or at least get it to someone who will appreciate what I've left.