The Danger of New Beginnings

The wooded walking pathphoto © 2007 Brad Gocken | more info (via: Wylio)
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. – Annie Dillard, “The Writing Life”

The other day I sent out a message on Twitter:

“If you are always starting new things, when will you finish the story you were created to write?”

I was actually writing this to no one but myself. I have this wonderful habit of starting new stories and never finishing them. My computer is riddled with innumerable Chapter Ones and characters waiting to be developed. It’s like opening a refrigerator and finding a dozen plates of food, partially eaten, wrapped protectively in plastic wrap.

* * * * *

Sometimes I worry that I am creating a pattern in my writing that is becoming increasingly difficult to tear myself from: the pattern of unfinished beginnings.

So many times we bemoan our seemingly mediocre lives, all the while skipping from this beginning to that one, living on the adrenaline-pumping nature of coming out of the starting gate. But we cannot sprint forever. The new business we determined to start trickles to a stop as we are faced with the harsh realities of what perseverance requires. We bail from yet another relationship – commitment is not nearly as fun as that first kiss.

And telling the stories as we imagined them in our heads takes more work than we ever thought possible. So they are shelved until the following week, when a fresh character sends us out of the gate, sprinting again. But our sides begin to ache and we bend over, hands on knees, out of breath.

And we walk back to the starting gate. Again.

* * * * *

I love my generation. I love our free spirits, our open minds, our refusal to look at things the same way as the generations before us.

But there are things I see in my generation that scare me, things I see in myself – an obsession with beginnings, a skepticism towards repetitive disciplines, a desire to avoid commitment of almost any kind.

How can I break my own fear of committing to the story?

* * * * *

Annie Dillard writes, “There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.”

How do you move yourself from the excitement of beginnings to the long hard work of writing the middle?

How do you persevere?

7 Replies to “The Danger of New Beginnings”

  1. Good post. Our generation has been told we can do anything, so we try to do everything and end up doing nothing most of the time, because we never devote the time and energy necessary to continue toward a goal after the initial rush wears off. I am working toward starting a business right now, and it’s hard. But not at hard as facing a wasted life when I’m 70.

    Also, love that Dillard book.

  2. Oh my, does this resonate with me? I definitely am a fan of beginnings. . . Kathleen Norris has really helped me to think through the worship that comes through the daily, repetitive tasks – like vacuuming and writing each day.

    Thanks for, yet again, reinforcing my own thoughts and giving me fresh ones.

  3. Great piece … good stuff to ponder.

    Beginnings are great … love them! And I hope there’s always more new beginnings.
    But finishing (and finishing well) is also good … I learned a lot about perseverance from running. I can’t run 5 miles instantly … I have to build up muscles to go that far. Each step I take gets me closer to my goal and makes me stronger, so I can go farther the next time. And if the sense-of-accomplishment feeling feels good when completing running goals, won’t it is also feel good in other goals?

  4. This is a fantastic post. I find I too start many things only to get bored and move on to the next thing. I then swear I won’t give up and yet I do. It is a terrible cycle with me.

  5. I had the same paranoia’s too. If I started one thing, am I not going to finish something else? Is this all just a waste of time & character space? Then I realized, for me, they were all exercises of my imagination & writing skills. Now I keep a book of ideas & one liners, unfinished stories & plots. I may or may not get back to them, or I might find inspiration from them on something else I’m working on. They were never a waste, just a moment to be captured & returned to later on at the right time for the right reason :).


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