Okay, so maybe not literally forever, but... For the last week and a half, I've been working on the largest 2D piece I've ever done. It's an 18"x28" pastel painting of a clown fish in an anemone. I'm having to take it one tentacle--and color--at a time. I know I will finish it, it will just take time.
It got me thinking about how many times we start art projects and don't finish them. I used to be really bad about this, so I'm talking to myself here, too. But I have definitely improved. You can have a sketchbook packed with gorgeous doodles and ideas for drawings that no one ever sees or a basket full of half-knitted projects. But at some point it's really helpful to push beyond the practice and theory and deliver finished art.
At some point you need to own where you are in the process, stick with a piece, working through and learning from the challenges, and finish it to the best of your current ability. Seth Godin says true artists "ship it."
"Finished" art is just something you put your best into in order to make the world better, whether for your family, your community or the world. Finished art doesn't happen when you wait until you can produce something as good or better than your favorite Instagram artist, because, well, that's probably not going to happen. Join the club!
But maybe this time you just made sure the paper didn't get wrinkled and smudged, or used some expensive materials you'd been saving, or finally pulled the trigger on that idea you'd been wanting to try. Maybe you drew a portrait and made sure it had two eyes, a nose, a mouth and hair this time. It may not be as good as you hoped, but you did the best you could and finished it.
An important part of finishing something, even if you're not doing it for a living, is to share it! Mat and frame your drawing or photography. Hang your painting. Let others use and enjoy your pottery. Wear the sweater you knitted. Pass out all those scarves you crocheted to nursing home residents. Take a great photo of your work and post it on Instagram. Blog on the website you spent so much time designing (ahem...)
Putting what you create out into the world can make you feel vulnerable and exposed, or it may feel conceited or self-serving. But the world needs beauty and joy and good, helpful ideas. How can you make the world more beautiful, put a smile on someone's face, impart a new idea, or help someone if you don't put it out there?
So just do your personal best work and finish something...anything! It's a very rewarding habit. Now I'm going to get a cup of coffee, listen to some Ella Fitzgerald or Van Halen, and work toward FINISHING that clown fish...