Starting and Quitting

Starting and Quitting | Lexie Winslow

A stack of my half-begun story ideas.

I’ve been keeping up with my daily blogging for three weeks now. We’re right on schedule for my interest to wane. Two-thirds, three-quarters of the way through, I usually quit my creative projects and start a new one. I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, I’ve learned a few new things, and I can walk away without much feeling of regret. The allure of a new project is much more compelling for me than the completion of an existing one, especially when the work already feels done.

As far as I can recall, I never spent too much time reflecting on this tendency, besides a vague feeling of disappointment that it’s in my nature to be more driven by inspiration than by discipline. Then, I read a blog post by Gretchen Rubin this summer that put a much finer point on the topic.

Do you get more satisfaction from:

  • throwing away a container or bottle after using the very last drop, or
  • opening a fresh new container?

Are you more likely to:

  • have several unfinished projects going at one time, or
  • make sure that you’ve done a thorough job on your priority project before starting something new?

Rubin proposes a taxonomy for these two types of people, Finishers and Openers.

I’m a Finisher; my husband is an Opener. I love to extract the last tiny bit out of a tube of toothpaste, and he loves opening the new tube. True, I do love that first squeeze, and the first dip into a new jar of peanut butter, but I also enjoy using the very last bit of the old stuff. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I use the last egg in a carton (as I did this morning).

This concept really struck me. I knew she had me pegged when I read the portion on registering a dozen domain names, just in case, for partially developed business ideas: I am pure Opener through and through.

(Her point was further driven home a day or two later when I watched my cousin scrape a peanut butter jar clean with a little spatula, even though there was a fresh one waiting in the cupboard. Talk about a Finisher.)

I don’t care much for self-help, but I love the study of personality. Observations on human nature like this can be put to good use. I’m not just a fickle creative type—I’m the type of person who gets a bigger rush from starting fresh than the big finish. Now that I know that about myself, instinct no longer rules: I can catch myself doing it, and choose which behavior would be more beneficial.

For example, I can choose to write at least 7 more blog posts, and fulfill my self-imposed 30-day challenge.

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