View Full Version : The Fear of Finishing

08-10-2011, 12:01 PM
Interesting concept for too many members here who are shop/garage tinkering ideas

The Fear of Finishing

They can only hide it from me for so long: Sometimes it takes a day, a week, or maybe a month—but eventually it comes out. The Fear of Finishing.


A raise of hands to those here who experience this

08-10-2011, 12:07 PM
The shoe fits, and boy does it smart. And is getting smarter-----------


08-10-2011, 12:23 PM
I finish stuff, occasionally. The problem is I'm entangled in this DNA like complexity of sequential events. One marvelous day, I will complete a task and within a few hours thousands of projects will finish like dominoes. I will grin, have a beer, and the earths orbit will shift slightly.

08-10-2011, 12:30 PM
It's awful. It's really awful. I get to "functional" then stop. I can actually get myself to physically shaking during the final wrap-up of a project (be it machining, programming, writing, wood working, even baking.)

08-10-2011, 12:45 PM
Haha. It is a fairly true concept here, though, I tend to notice a hesitation to begin more than finish. When I make it to the shop, I've noticed I take about an hour to decide what to start on that day. I've tried a list approach, but it just feels like work then. The completed, fully crossed off list is satisfying on the other hand :) I don't think these facts are really "bad". We're human after all, not robots. I've got a home shop---not a production deadline (or a limitless wallet ;))!

[EDIT] I worked for a photographer that had a studio in his residence for awhile. I think he said it best... "I hate to change my activity the most". By that, he meant once he is working he'll just keep going. Once he stops, it takes great effort to switch back to work again. He had a penchant for calling me at 11PM and asking if I could work the next day (freelance job)... he would start when his clients showed up/forced him :D and then work into the wee hours of the morning. I could appreciate the self-understanding in his statement. It did make the job a fair bit unbalanced for my schedule, though!

Weston Bye
08-10-2011, 12:56 PM
An artist's philosophy:
"...the painting is not so much finished as abandoned."

08-10-2011, 01:25 PM
I'm glad folks here are getting some thing out of the article. I only posted it because it sufficiently "Hit Home" with me too.

The "Perfectionist" part hit home pretty good for me. I have adopted the philosophy of cut 2 or 3, accept 1. I know going in I'm going to toss out some trial runs. The sooner those defects hit the garbage can and off my bench the better for me psychologically. On the bench they serve little purpose other then to beat myself up. Once in the trash they have freed up much needed room on my bench for some thing new.

OK: Just rambling, I return you now to your regularly scheduled rant ...

08-10-2011, 01:33 PM
Raises hand.

I have a strong perfectionist/OCD streak. Good for engineering, bad for just about everything else in life. :)

Forrest Addy
08-10-2011, 01:40 PM
I on the other hand finish everything I start. Once started a project is doomed to rapid efficient completion. Mow the lawn, a trifle. Paint the house, but a little chore. Clean out the work shop. A multi day task I will agree but it will get done and all the while I will be singing along to my opera mix CD. No "round tuit" jobs here and you can believe it..

Ah, anyone wanna buy some waterfront.

brian Rupnow
08-10-2011, 02:22 PM
I DO finish everything I start!!! My wife accuses me of being "Obsessive/compulsive" whan it comes to finishing anything I start. My father was my hero, (Rest his soul), and just about the worst condemnation he could give of a mans character was "Damn fool never finishes anything!!!" sometimes I wish I had NEVER STARTED certain projects, but they always get finished at any rate.----Brian

08-10-2011, 02:58 PM
An artist's philosophy:
"...the painting is not so much finished as abandoned."

A man much wiser than I once said something analogous about writing; that it is not so much that you ever "finish" a novel as reach an uneasy truce with it.

Dan Dubeau
08-10-2011, 03:32 PM
I couldn't even finish reading that article

08-10-2011, 04:00 PM
I certainly do not finish everything I start. However,it is because my mind has moved on.

What you need to do is just realize that if you do not finish the project,it will never have existed. A simple truth.

Frank Ford
08-10-2011, 04:20 PM
Fear of finishing? Not me. I do know a lot of folks with that, though.

Some years ago Dan Erlewine and I delivered a lecture on the subject of being so concerned with getting a guitar restoration job done that it takes forever because of not being able to compromise and accept when things are done satisfactorily rather than perfectly. The title of the lecture was "When is GOOD enough?

That was at a convention where I also wore my special engraved name badge:


Now, on the subject of unfinished projects - I have them in profusion, some dating back to the 1970s. It's not a matter of fear of finishing, but the lack of time (in a few cases, lack of interest) and the inability to cut down on the number of projects I start.

"You may not get the maximum points for completing a less-than-perfect job, but you get no points at all for not finishing."

I said that. . .

08-10-2011, 04:56 PM
Now let me ask a question. How many of you feel this tendency has remained about the same throughout your adult life?

Frankly I think I'm the worlds worst at this. If not, I'm running a close second.
And in my younger years I almost never let anything go uncompleted. Only if some external factor intervened. Now, it's almost as if something dreadful will happen if I DO complete a project.

The reason I ask the question, is that in my case I've been aware of the steady progression of this affliction for the last 20 years or so. Just wondering if others feel the same in that regard.

The Artful Bodger
08-10-2011, 05:01 PM
I thought I was the only one with this phobia!:eek:

The Artful Bodger
08-10-2011, 05:03 PM
[American tourist in England] "Don't these Norman workmen ever finish anything?";)

08-10-2011, 05:04 PM
The author's discussion is actually directed towards Entrepreneurs. I felt it also applied well to HSM inventor types

08-10-2011, 05:47 PM
OCD, a wide streak here...if I take an interest I latch with such a grip the jaw locks :D , problem as I see it in finishing is boredom.

The projects get started because of even some slight interest but a large bit of "newness", in doing something not done, or seldom done before...once I get to the part(s) I've done lots, it can get tough to finish.

One gets a rep as a bit of a "know it all" as you don't know when to let go, on THAT subject. For me, this machining is just the latest.
In formal school you can go in one of the "worst" and come out one of the "best" because of "it".

08-10-2011, 06:10 PM
I am not a bit afraid to finish things nor am I a perfectionist any more. I started out as a perfectionist and a very good machinist friend got my mind right and smacked me into the real world.

Since then my goal is to, "Get It Right" and finish the job. When I finally went to work making a living as a machinist I was glad my friend had slapped me into the real world. I never would have made it if he had not done that. A working machinist has no time to be a perfectionist. Besides that, perfection is NOT attainable.

I have a few projects I keep on hand to fill my time but I finish everything and perfection has nothing to do with it.

Get it right, get it done.

08-10-2011, 06:48 PM
My problem is that I find somewhere right around 95% is good enough. That last 5% is usually the most tedious least noticeable part of a project. Functionally something is ready right now with no added work or it can be the same level of ready in 2 more hours with no real change to the final outcome (other than looks). Sure, it might be clean or painted or polished to a high shine in 2 more hours but that is 2 hours I could have spent on the next project and bucket loads more maintenance work I'll have to do in the future to keep yet one more thing cleaned, painted, or polished.

08-10-2011, 07:23 PM
I am a firm be leaver that if a job is worth doing it is worth finishing and doing the best you can with what you have. I have only built one thing so far that i did not finish. A Hot Air Engine it is all done except polishing and assembly. been that was for 2 are 3 years. Every thing else when I start its balls to the wall till I am done. Nothing else is started till the first project is done.

08-10-2011, 08:11 PM
Some things I finish to a fairy high degree. Some things I leave in a half finished state. But I can never work out why for which.

I have cars that look like s**t because the paintwork has gone, but I'll make sure they go well. And there are rooms in the house I've stripped that I'd happily live in as they are.

But the workshop looks neat and tidy, and my machines work well. I suppose they look a bit bad. too.

I think things get finished properly if at the time I get enjoyment out of the finishing process, or I think the praise, or personal satisfaction, I'll get for finishing the job outweighs the boredom of doing it.

But overall I'm with Arthur. I'll plan for a new project. I'll get the stock in for a new project. I'll make jigs, and buy machines, for it. But will I start it ? The heck I will. I'll probably get sidetracked improving the machine I've just bought to do the thing in the first place.

I've spent a few weeks getting my lathe reasonably oil tight, with house projects going at the same time. I was standing in the shop, feeling pleased with myself, thinking I had a clean sheet in front of me. I must be completely forgetting all the unfinished projects around me. They just weren't ringing their bells loudly enough.

08-10-2011, 08:25 PM
Geez, this seems to be a somewhat common thing, i too have a few unfinished projects,, mainly cause i didn,t have the funds to finish it properly, or come up with a better procedure to finish it better, but again due to a lack of funds at the time to go with the better method.
So they will get finished eventually,,, more than likely over the winter months when it,s cosy to be working in the shop, and too bloody cold and miserable to go out to do anything else.

I know a number of guys with unfinished projects not only shop things, but their houses also.
Seems many times we just have "TOO MANY" things going on.

08-10-2011, 08:41 PM
My problem is that I find somewhere right around 95% is good enough. That last 5% is usually the most tedious least noticeable part of a project.

That's exactly the problem with OCD types. They spend the 80% of the labor on the last 5% of the project ;)

08-10-2011, 10:47 PM
Before I "retired" someone else decided when I was finished with projects.

NOW; "Projects" are finished when I'm tired of fooling with them.

I much prefer being retired!

08-10-2011, 10:55 PM
Amen brother, Amen. ;)

Your Old Dog
08-11-2011, 12:21 AM
Thanks for the post. I suffer from the one about "what if you find a better way of doing something or want to change it". For that reason I am damn near paralyzed. Sometimes it's worked in my favor but very rarely. It's nice to see it all put into words.

The Artful Bodger
08-11-2011, 01:28 AM
Apart from the getting finished phobia as discussed on this thread I also suffer from the 'keep it for best' syndrome.

This condition manifests itself when I am looking under the bench for material to make something, whatever I find I have difficulty deciding to put it to use in case a better use for it might come along later.:(

I am sure I am not alone with this affliction.

Your Old Dog
08-11-2011, 09:58 AM
Apart from the getting finished phobia as discussed on this thread I also suffer from the 'keep it for best' syndrome.

This condition manifests itself when I am looking under the bench for material to make something, whatever I find I have difficulty deciding to put it to use in case a better use for it might come along later.:(

I am sure I am not alone with this affliction.

I forgot about that one. I have always been so concerned with scrap that it takes me forever to figure out the best use for what I have. Since then I've come into a little money and I know longer worry about making too much scrap. Now I can afford to buy extra and not worry about wasting a good piece of material.

I'm getting some use from this thread already because I am wiring my new 24x32' shop with gambrel ceiling. I have been going over and over how to best do it. I have the main wiring in now but have wasting time figureing out how to wire the 3 ceiling fans. After breakfast I'll go out and finish it and be hanged with how it comes out....I'm getting too old to waste time on crap like this. I'd rather be making furniture.

08-11-2011, 10:10 AM
Physician friend says a # of his patients won't pay all of their bill because this is preventive medicine for a new medical malady.As for me I often spend more time getting "ready" than I do completing the project.

08-11-2011, 10:59 AM
because I am wiring my new 24x32' shop ....

wow. You'll have to change the handle to You Lucky Dog

Your Old Dog
08-11-2011, 06:42 PM
wow. You'll have to change the handle to You Lucky Dog

Well yes and no. It's nice to have the booty but wasn't a good time at 10:10AM August 15th, 2006 when a guy was told to park his Chevy Van on my left ankle at a story I was shooting. Or the two years to recover and then the right ankle breaking because all my weight was on it so as to not have it on the recovering left when the right slipped out from under me on a razor thin section of ice. It was considered "consequential" because the left ankle caused it. Another nearly two years to recover.

However, having said that, the new Harley Electra Glide Ultra, the cottage on the lake, paid off the house and bought a 40 foot Holiday Rambler Ambassador motorhome to park on the new concrete driveway and all photographed with my new Leica M9 and too many lenses to mention and a new Canon 5DII for rough work! I'd like to tell you it's been hard but.......you'd probably call me a liar :D That is until evening when the crushed nerves of the left ankle come alive. That's when I "earn" it all.

I'm reminded of that old Gospel tune http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzxF-M2erx8

BTW: I'm not bragging, just excited of all the good fortune to come my way. I'd feel even better if all of you could experience the same financial change in life. Prior to August 15th I was wondering how I would ever be able to retire and then this? I've had too many breaks all along in life not to be a Believer and understand that "works in mysterious ways" bit about as well as anyone I expect.

08-11-2011, 08:46 PM
I'm the opposite. I start something because I'm not sure I can do it. I have an idea, I make a plan, I make a whole bunch of mistakes, and fixes... Sometimes I abandon a project because it becomes obvious that it won't work the way I want, that it will be way too much work to bother with. Other times I get to the point where I know it will work, I know I'm right, I know I can do it... and then I don't care any more. Unless it's a sequential project, something that feeds into the next idea, I have to catch myself from just moving on to something more interesting.

As for actual finishing, rather than just completing, I hate it. I rarely get to the point of making something pretty.

08-12-2011, 02:05 AM
I have two different causes for projects- one is born of need, and the other is born of curiosity, creativity, passion-

Those born of need are usually mentally worked over until it can be seen that the bugs are already mostly worked out, then a rough timetable to complete is thought out, the collection of materials required is thought out, then fitting the project in with work and home duties is figured out- it gets treated fairly business-like. In a sense these are 'paying jobs'. These get done within a calculated time frame, and the need is met.

The other projects serve me in one way or another, and one of those ways is 'am I able to do this?' Someone mentioned that already- it's a challenge of a sort to see if you can overcome the technical obstacles. Once you realize that you can, the project itself has served its purpose, and is essentially complete even if not operable.

Another reason for a project is to satisfy a creative bent- I find that often I just need to put an idea into physical form. It may become a partial model which does little more than evolve more ideas, but as such it serves a purpose. It may never be completed, but it will likely find a home in a drawer.

Many of my projects are started as a distraction from everyday life issues. As a friend said to me the other day, I tend to isolate myself. I'm often more at home tilting around obstacles in the workshop than I am in the company of friends. At times it's not particularly healthy, but I also wonder what's healthy about other peoples lives. I don't particularly enjoy many of the things that other people do, and I don't like to pretend I'm enjoying myself when I'm not. I have one friend who shares some interest in what I do in the workshop, but that usually leads to something that I can make for him- 'that'll only take you a few minutes, won't it?'. I have one friend who actually likes to tinker in the shop with me, and that's actually the best all-round relationship I have with another person on this earth. We can do a project together and it's the same deal- if it's a need it gets done. If we're largely just goofing off, the time we spend on the project is its own reward- and it may just end up in a drawer in pieces as well. She lives in another town now, so our 'bonding time' is limited. It might in fact be that the purpose of the project is to get us to spend some time together, so leaving it unfinished might be better that completing it.

There are several projects that fall into the need category, but there are several tens of projects that serve these other categories. Some get finished, most do not- and I seem to be good with that.

Black Forest
08-12-2011, 03:34 AM
I suffer from ADD(attention deficit disorder). It has plagued me my whole life. Not until the last ten years has it been under control. Now I take one small little pill in the morning and the rest of the world can stand me! (Well except for A.K. Boomer!)

Once the creative side of things is completed it is absolutely a nightmare for me to stay hooked to anything and totally complete anything.

The ADD in one way is/was a blessing because I got a lot of things accomplished in my life. But it is was hard on the people around me.

I need to finish my sheep shearing machine but it works and so I have not gone on to do all the little things to call it finished. But tomorrow I will do it!

Your Old Dog
08-12-2011, 08:51 AM
......................................Now I take one small little pill in the morning and the rest of the world can stand me! (Well except for A.K. Boomer!)

.................................................. ...

Hell, I'd wear that like a badge of honor :D