Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finishing

All of my life, I have almost finished almost everything. I almost finished college (more than once); almost finished a novel (twice); almost finished six non-fiction books. In fact, I can't think of a project that I carried through all the way from beginning to end - ever.

From the quilt that I made for Katie - square patches, appliqued with hearts and then, almost completely quilted by hand to the living room that I almost finished painting, my life has been a series of enthusiasms that have carried me along, almost long enough to have just the kind of life I knew was waiting for me, just around a corner of myself.

I could almost touch it.

Almost.

Now, after three years of daily writing practice - three years of showing up at the page from early morning (often 5 a.m.) to midday, usually 2 p.m., no matter what, every single day - I have finished a book.

I had no idea that it would take this kind of commitment. I had no idea what commitment was. If you had asked me, five years ago, if I was capable of doing it, I'd have waved you away with a dreamy, sure... some day.

That woman had no idea what writing a book was: That I would write when I didn't feel well, when I had nothing to say, when some entertainment lured me away - that I would write, even when my mother was in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery; and that writing no matter what would make all of that bearable, would make all of it begin to fall into a kind of personal order, a deep pattern of "sense."

Writing every day changed my life.

No workshop or self-help book could have done this - though the wisest, most effective teachers have always suggested daily practice - and stressed the importance of setting intention.

Now I understand what they meant.

I also understand, now, what it means to be called by a purpose larger than myself. I understand that what called to me was not God - nor the angels - for no outside force can or will compel us to this kind of commitment. What called to me was me: A vision of myself that floated down one day, me as a writer; me as a person who finishes things, me as a person who walks her talk. You know, me - the one that all that not-finishing was almost letting out of the box.

I understand, also, why I didn't finish - a combination of self-doubt; laziness and misunderstanding - and why I did finish, this time.

I see the way an idea that began as a glimmer developed into a shimmer that shifted as I wrote, into a liquid and poured into a pattern that was forming as I lay it down, word by careful word. I see how it became, as I opened to it - a book.

I understand now what athletes must feel as they work the same muscles, the same way, week after week; I understand the need for practice - the musical scales the piano student must repeat; the intense commitment of the law student, memorizing precedent; the medical student, studying bones and organ systems.

I feel more grounded, more centered, more true to who I am than I have ever felt in my life. But it isn't the book that gave this gift to me. It was me - and the process - the weaving and refining, the whittling and re-imagining, the willingness to keep at it, to keep working.

Simply put: What changed my life was showing up.

I printed out a copy of a manuscript that I was proud of, that felt drenched with truth, with light and with "ME". Two days later, as the book arrives by Fed Ex Ground on my editor's desk, I've already started finishing the next project: One of those six non-fiction projects.

Today, I am an athlete, a musician, a medical student, too. I am a scholar of my own work; I am a person who finishes things.

11 comments:

Anj (@anjwrites) said...

Good for you - you continue to inspire me...not only to have the ideas and the passion, but to follow through on My Purpose. It is not something that can be left undone. Brilliant post!

Sally G. said...

To be a person who Shows Up, no matter what, no matter how, every day, always, fully and completely - is admirable and inspirational. I'm so happy for you Amy ... truly awesome!!

mydivabydesign - The Diva's Home said...

Thank you for this. I also recently finished an project and I felt so free. There was no longer that burden.Congratulations on finishing your book! I would like to quote you in my post today though I am not nearly as eloquent as you are!

Amy Oscar said...

Of course you may quote me in your post. Im honored that you asked.

Micheamustro said...

I applaud you!

The line you wrote stood out to me, "What called me was,"ME."

Self doubt and true exhaustion keep me from showing up." I need to re-connect with my energy, and my will to accomplish what I was destined for in this new chapter of my life.....

I need to, "Show Up!"

Amy Oscar said...

Reading back your comment, MyDivaByDesign, I want to clarify something: You said that at the end of your project, you felt free, unburdened. I felt - and still feel - something very different.

I never felt burdened by this project. All the way through the process, I felt free. Now, coming to the end, I feel proud and determined. I also feel un-moored.

Frankly, I'm a little bit lost, the next project not yet fully seated into my life. That will come, I know now. And here is another lovely process: Which project will I choose to dive into next?

Which soul whisper will I follow to the finish line this time?

Alice Langholt said...

Beautiful. I'm so very proud of you, and proud to know you. I'm inspired to know that maybe I could do this too (my unfinished novel sits, waiting patiently for me to be ready to show up to attend to it). I'm still at the "one day" phase, but I know it won't last forever.

Your writing is so gorgeous, real, and touches the heart. I know your book will succeed on its merits. I'm eagerly awaiting my signed copy already!

Much love and applause,
Alice

wholly jeanne said...

A Woman Who Shows Up And Finishes Things . . . now that's a club I want to join. congratulations and woohoo on 1 down, infinite to go.

Cindy O said...

Well, said! Congratulations!

Doc Meek said...

O wow Amy! I thought I was reading my own biography about never finishing anything that . . .
Blessings, Doc Meek, Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA

Janet Goldstein said...

Love this post. I've been following you on Twitter for quite a while but never clicked through to your blog. Funny. Anyway, I really relate to "Finishing." It's such a powerful thing. I've finished lots of stuff, but have the feeling you describe about all the other stuff that's left undone or in my head.

Best, j