The Tragedy of Unfinished Art
All around the world, in homes, offices, and studios, there are unfinished works of art that will never see the light of day. Does one of them belong to you?
When I sit at the desk in my college office, I see lots of great art. On the wall to my right are movie posters for two of my favorite films, Citizen Kane and The Searchers. On the wall to the left there is a print of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Return of the Prodigal Son.
On the bookshelf beside me are models for some of my favorite vehicles, including the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the Mach 5 from Speed Racer. The bookshelves behind me hold hundreds of books and DVD’s. The iPhone on my desk contains hundreds of songs, dozens of podcast episodes, and a few dozen apps.
And the MacBook I’m using to write this is a work of art in itself!
All of these great items were made by creative people who finished their work. These products and works of art began as ideas in someone’s mind, but they didn’t stay that way. Their creators worked on the ideas, usually collaborating with others, and the ideas began to take shape. But most importantly, they finished their work. Or to put it in terms Seth Godin would appreciate, they shipped it.
This is where we often get hung up. We have a great idea for something, begin to work on it, and build momentum. We may even tell a few others about the exciting thing we’re working on. But then slowly, as we work on it, we lose steam. Life gets busy, we lose focus, and we don’t finish what we started.
Superman Lives . . . or does he?
Sometimes our work ends up like the movie Superman Lives. You say you’ve never heard of this movie? That’s because it was never made.
In the 1990’s, Warner Bros. decided it was time to resurrect the Superman franchise. They cycled through a few directors before landing on Tim Burton, who had given the studio great success with his Batman movies. Various drafts of scripts were written, sets and costumes were made, and Nicholas Cage was set to star as Supes.
But after years of development and endless problems, the studio shut down production. A great deal of time and energy, not to mention millions of dollars, went down the drain and the movie was never made.
What could have been one of the most interesting movies from the 1990’s ended up as just another “might have been.”
It just needs to be finished
Everyone has a “might have been” story. It may not be a big Hollywood movie, but I’ll be that you’ve started something you’d like to finish. It might be a book, a piece of music, a painting, or something you’re building or making with your hands. You want to finish it, but you just can’t seem to find the time.
In the bottom of someone’s desk drawer there is an Oscar-winning screenplay. It just needs to be finished.
On someone’s hard drive there is a life-changing novel. It just needs to be finished.
In someone’s closet there is a painting worthy of being hung in a gallery. It just needs to be finished.
On someone’s college transcript there is a degree listed with most of the required classes already taken. The degree could open doors and unlock someone’s potential. It just needs to be finished.
In someone’s journal, tucked away on a bookshelf, are sketches that could be the basis for a comic strip or an animated movie. They just need to be finished.
On someone’s sketchpad are drawings for a remodeled kitchen, basement, or treehouse. They just need to be finished.
On someone’s CD, disk, or hard are rough demos of Grammy-winning songs. They just need to be finished.
Is that someone you?
If so, what can you do to turn your “might have beens” into reality?
What creative art do you still have unfinished?
This post is an excerpt from my ebook The Art of Completion: Finishing the Creative Projects That Matter Most, which you receive for free when you subscribe.