Tackling U.F.O.s

I learned recently from Suzy, a student in one of my The Stuck Creative classes, that all quilters try to push the thought of U.F.O.s out of their minds. Otherwise, going on would just be too disturbing.

U.F.O.s , as quilters know them, are Un Finished Objects. Yes, unfinished objects can truly haunt us. There they are in a closet, drawer, a things-to-do box, on a book shelf, in the garage, or some other safe place where they can’t escape.

“What to do? What to do?” is the question that plays through our head like Poe’s tell-tale heart thumping away. We have a few choices: jump in and finish up the project, hide the project again, or dump it. But are there other options?

The forgotten option: Embrace it. We don’t have to finish, hide, or dump every uncompleted project. We can look at it and decide what we learned while we working on the project. We can also honor how much we did get done.

There are two ways we can play this. With one’s head hanging low: “I got a book half written, a collage 30% underway, a quilt almost there, a prototype built, etc.”  Or, with one’s head held high: “Hey, I got a book half written, a collage 30% underway, a quilt almost there, a prototype built, etc. Not bad, not bad at all.”

How many other people get that far? It is sort of like realizing that one has “only” gotten half-way up Mt. Everest. Believe me, most people can’t get half way up Mt. Everest or write half a book, get a collage to 30% complete, work a quilt to almost being there, or get a prototype built. Give yourself a break and realize you have been partially up the mountain. Creating ain’t easy.

Put it on the books but in the future. We can try again to tackle it. Put a date on your calendar—a week from now, a year from now, it’s up to you—and decide then if you want to continue with the project.

Give it to someone else to finish. Do you know someone that could make something of your project? It may seem impossible at first glance but really take a look at it. Maybe they can’t use what you have but you can give them your idea, background files, unused materials, etc. Your project may live on in the hands of others.

Recycle it. Make it part of something new.

Reframe it. Not literally but as you describe it. Instead of seeing it as an unfinished object see it as a draft, an experiment, a test, an exploration, the first cautious steps going in a new direction.

In reality that is exactly what that project was, a learning experience about:

how to work;

the difficulties all of us face when doing creative work;

the challenges of our work materials;

the power of distractions, dips, and dives to pull us away from our creative work;


We didn’t turn it into a F.O. (finished object) because we were not yet ready or the conditions around us prevented us from going forward.  No shame in that.


4 thoughts on “Tackling U.F.O.s

  1. I agree that sometimes its best to leave an unfinished project for a period of time. It gives you time to forget about it for a while, deactivate the neurons associated with it, and when you come back to it, you are more likely to generate some novel ideas to get it going again.


  2. Your blog is excellent, Gary! You’re helping to remove the clutter of the mind that blocks our feng shui as well as our creativity. Thank you and I enjoy exploring your posts some more.


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