Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Starting Things

I love to start new things. And I seem to have no lack of great ideas for new projects. Here's an example.

On Sunday night, as I was about to drift off to sleep, the thought came into my head that it is only one more month until NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, during which crazed people from all over the world hunker down in darkened rooms, consume nothing but chocolate and coffee, and attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. But I digress...). Anyways, the thought of NaNoWriMo led to ruminations about my novel, the behemoth that is a product of past Nanos. The thing is finished, mostly, but it still needs more revisions. I am supposed to be completing those revisions. "Shall I use Nano 2010 to finish the revisions?" I asked myself.

"No," I instantly answered myself. "How dull! I will write a new novel." Immediately upon permitting myself that thought, the plot for a new novel took shape in my mind, and proceeded to scroll by for a good hour. It is a science fiction novel, not my typical genre. I am feeling quite excited about it. A nice new project...

Here's another example. Last week I was stranded for a couple of days in the metropolis of Fort St. John, BC. For those who have never been there, Fort St. John is a brash, scruffy little prairie boom town, bursting its seams with oil and gas development. Everywhere you look, there are pickup trucks, young men, and drinking establishments. One sunny afternoon, I went walking along some trails in Fish Creek Community Forest. as I walked, a painting project formed in my mind. I pictured a series of paintings of water -- not landscapes per se, but images somewhat more abstract and close up. And then after that, I could go on to paint a series of cloud paintings, again, zoomed in, without the the context of land to anchor each piece. Hmmm.

And the week before that, a colleague phoned me up to see if I was interested in doing some collaborative research on a particular topic. Well, I haven't been working in that topic area nor had I been thinking along those lines, but in no time flat a great idea came to me for a study that would be interesting and useful, and that would capitalize on the different expertise each of us would bring to it. Another new idea, another new project.

All these great ideas, and no time to do any of them. My life is ruled by the urgent minutiae of administration. Like Sisyphus with his boulder, or like a fisherman trying to untangle a ball of fishing line, the tasks take all my energy, focus, and time. The reward each day is to do them all over again tomorrow, or something very similar.

When I do start on a new project, it takes such effort to steal little bits of time to work on it, and to try to focus in the face of constant interruptions. Inevitably, the project ends up dragging on for months or years, until the beautiful idea that gripped me in the beginning becomes yet another obligation lined up with all the others, clamouring for attention, haunting me with its incompleteness.

I used to comfort myself with the thought that there would be time to do what I wanted to do. But I'm getting older. I've now had the experience of abandoning stale projects that were left too long. And I'm realizing that eventually, time will run out.