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52 Ways to Shift Your Focus: Reconsider How You Define "End"

Shift #52: Reconsider How You Define “End”

In the year since I began my “52 Ways to Shift Your Focus” series, I’ve loved thinking about all the ways people get stuck in their creative processes and their lives. Pushing myself to write a weekly post on this topic has forced me to reconsider how and why I write, as well as how I approach the work of others. It’s been an honor to hear from readers and to bounce ideas off people close to me.

The last post in a series like this is tough to write. Do I put up a big bang of a post that pulls everything together? Do I say what I’m doing next? Do I look for other work?

Ah. Wait a minute. What I really want to do is this: reconsider how we define the end of a creative work or, really, the alleged completion of any project/task/responsibility/interest that has consumed a significant bit of time in our lives.

Creating this project has made thinking about ways to shift my focus become a habit. In that sense, this project will live in my head for a long while. It’ll be there the next time I pace around and wonder why I can’t sit still long enough to accomplish anything. So, for me, it really doesn’t end with this fifty-second post. I am struck by the persistent idea that “the end”, as it pertains to creative work, is only applicable at a writer’s or artist’s death. And, even then, creative work can inspire and twist someone else’s art, so it may not actually be the end.

Once we put our ideas out there into the grand stew pot of creative work, someone else can ladle out bits and pieces to rearrange in their own bowls. (Hmm. It’s clear I cook. Napkin?) All goofy metaphors aside, being a writer or painter or photographer is such an essential part of some people that no project is really the end. There’s always more. There are stories and pieces of art that feel complete and we sign off on them, but then there’s the next thing. There’s the other way the project could have been done, there’s the project that erupted from a spark while we were doing something else, there’s the response we want to make to someone else’s work. There’s the way the sun catches the dew in the morning, the way the clouds move across the sky, or the last thing our kid said while heading out the door and we absolutely have to capture it somehow. There are all these bits and pieces of our lives that come together to be distilled into another bit of beauty or a realization that rings true for a community. There is no end to that.

It’s somewhat serendipitous that I’m concluding this series right now, as my daughter gets ready for her high school graduation in a couple of weeks. Yes, I’m exactly the sort of parent who tears up over that kind of stuff . I’ve been trying to apply ways to shift my thoughts away from this being the end of Abby’s childhood and toward the wide open possibilities that she will encounter at the University of Minnesota this fall. This series is not just for people to work out their creative project kinks; it’s a way of being in the world. Shifting focus. Seeing “the end” as an open door. Stepping back at looking at something from another angle. And doing it again if necessary.

Aside from the fact that my future Tuesday posts will have a different title, I don’t know what’s next. That’s a beautiful thing.

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