Something new. It’s what we do at this season, isn’t it? Look ahead to the New Year, perhaps make resolutions – look for something fresh to think about – a new project, maybe, something to get the brain whirring and stir up flagging enthusiasm. We writers are particularly prone to this, I think; throw off all the old projects and start something completely new. It’s heady stuff – a project that’s all in your imagination, its drawbacks and difficulties not yet thought of, the sheer hard work of it not yet begun. All unspoiled by reality. Of course, that won’t last. Every project is waiting to hit you with problems, with those ‘Oh, dear, I hadn’t thought of that!’ moments.
So here’s a revolutionary idea, very much in tune with the times: instead of plunging headlong into a new project, how about recycling your old, half-finished projects? ‘Boring!’ I hear you say. Well, yes. But if you’re like me, you might have five or six partially-completed pieces of work just begging to be finished before you rush into something new. I don’t know why it can be so difficult to finish a piece of work when you’ve already done, perhaps, more than half of it. I guess it’s because the second half is where you have to pay more attention, solve more problems, make everything work tidily. It’s much more exciting to begin something new.
But just think of the satisfaction of completing a long-term project, especially if you’ve set it aside, or even abandoned it. That, as an old friend of mine used to say, is an accomplishment – the victory of the hard slog of finishing something over the thrill of starting anew. And a great deal less wasteful, too. And, if a writing project is really beyond help, then why not pull it apart and repurpose the components? Don’t let your words go to waste – look for short pieces that can be patch-worked together or re-used elsewhere. Like old clothes and furniture, maybe they can be upcycled into something completely different but just as useful.
So this New Year, I shan’t be rushing into anything new. Not that I don’t have fresh ideas to explore, but I have a whole set of unfinished projects awaiting my attention, and they must come first. I think the sense of accomplishment in completing them, in tying up all those loose ends, will be considerable. 2020, for me at least, will be the year of completing old projects – or of finding inventive ways to recycle anything I really can’t complete. Waste not, want not, they say, and that’s a not a bad mindset for a writer to cultivate. I’ll let you know how I get on.