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A Conversation about Finishing Things

The hardest part of most things is the starting. Once you’ve begun, the momentum of overcoming the initial immobilizing friction is enough to carry you along.

This is what I’ve found when writing. Lists are easy. My mind is an ocean of skeletal thoughts, half-developed, half-understood. But to begin to put flesh on those bones, to articulate what is otherwise half-hidden in the closet of my mind, that is hard.

Because of this, usually the simplest, shortest, most accessible tasks and writings get done. The “Got it. Thanks!” emails, or the short, two-sentence responses that require no thought; those are the simple skeletons. Dressing them takes no time.

But the bigger ideas, the book ideas, or how-to ideas, the skeletons that I’ve not even begun to dig up, those remain buried, only partially exposed for my mind to consider. But then, to think of the work that it will take to excavate, to carefully reconstruct and then generate those thoughts into something cogent, coherent, that is a daunting task. And rather than rescuing those ideas, I pass by them for the change on the ground. Low value, but easy to grab.

Part of the problem is that I am more motivated to do things that give instant gratification in exchange for little work. And part of the problem is that I often doubt that those “finds,” buried in the groundwork of my mind, are valuable to enough to be dug out.

And part of the problem is that I’m afraid of not being perfect. Which is bad, because perfection is hard to define and impossible to attain.

All that to say, I didn’t finish the essay you assigned and was hoping that you would give me an extension.