unfinished business

Have a closet (room? bin?) full of unfinished craft projects? I know I do. Today’s post is an honest reality check for all those who, like me, get frustrated by the unfinished, half-done projects lying around. Abbey reminds us that creativity isn’t about the end-result, it’s about the process. Enjoy.

Have you ever noticed that some things just seem destined to be works in progress forever?

As I’ve been reorganizing closets and putting things away, I keep running across projects that are not finished. One fingerless glove sits with a ball of yarn waiting to make a second one (I needed to knit a couple of baby hats before I got around to finishing it). A hat, beginning to unravel, has come partially off the double-pointed needles I was using to knit it (the fifth time that happened in the short life of the project, so I shelved it). A totally-pieced quilt top for my daughter is  folded in a tote bag, just waiting to be sandwiched and tied (to match the completed quilt that her twin sister sleeps under every night).

What is it about some projects that just makes them more difficult to complete?

I’ve managed to start and finish loads of other projects while these items have been languishing on the shelf. Did I lose energy before I was finished? Did I bite off more than I could chew? Did other things in my life overwhelm me and keep me from getting to the end of these tasks? Did I get so hung up on making things perfect that I was afraid to finish at all?

If I focus on these projects and their perpetual state of undone-ness, I can get really discouraged. Although I might have a perfectly good reason for never having painted those wooden letters to hang in my kitchen, I still feel somehow guilty that I have not completed the task.

Today, though, I’ve decided that enough is enough. This self-criticism has got to stop. The fact is, life is not a straight line from point A to point B. There are curves, twists, turns and pauses we can’t anticipate. As we move through the seasons of our lives, some themes repeat. We reconnect with people from our pasts and get a chance to know each other again, or we revisit places we have been before and get to see them through our children’s eyes. Maybe someday, I will have renewed energy and a desire to finish some project I left undone years before.

Some people and places are just in our lives for a season, though. It’s entirely possible that I might not ever come back to some of these projects. Some of them might be unfinished forever, or until someone else (maybe one of my children) takes them up and completes them in his or her own way.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that part of my fear in not finishing something is that I have wasted my time with it. The hours I spent sanding or painting or stitching are gone. I can’t get them back. Does that mean that my time spent on those projects was useless, just because there is no end result?

I don’t think so.

Everything we do in the creative process is worth something, because it’s just that…a process. There’s no time limit, no buzzer that says “pencils down.” Creativity does not expire after a certain date just because we haven’t put the finishing touches on our work. The worth of the work is in the work itself, in the positive energy that is produced because we are creating. Maybe there’s a reason we call ourselves crafters, sewers, quilters, knitters, painters, writers, creatives instead of finishers!

Let’s go forward into the here and now, taking only the work that adds meaning and gives us a sense of purpose at this season in our lives and leaving the rest behind. Creating is a gift of the present moment, and we can’t let ourselves be hung up on what is already behind us. Someday later, we can come back to the unfinished work of the past…or we can leave it for a future generation.

What matters is the meaningful work that’s before us now – and there’s plenty to be done.

Abbey Dupuy is a stay-at-home parent to a preschooler and one-year-old twins. She writes about practicing gratitude and learning to be a little easier on herself through the ups and downs of life at www.survivingourblessings.com. To keep her sanity, she enjoys running, fiber arts, baking, and going places that offer free refills on coffee or Diet Coke.



  1. You must have been reading my mind! Another practical reason that these unfinished projects bother me a bit is because of the space they take up. I’m constantly rearranging my small condo and finding more ways to store these unfinished projects instead of taking that time to finish a few. Thanks for helping me relax!