Joco Diversions

Emily Parnell — Making the move from starter to finisher

When it comes to my hobbies, I’ve always thought of myself as more of a starter than a finisher. It’s nothing to make me proud — to know that my basement is full of tubs, each containing an assortment of implements for a particular project. I have a tub from my tiling days, one from my batik and fabric dyeing days (which I have still not fully admitted to myself I’m done with), a slew of beads for making jewelry, a smaller tub from rubber stamping and a variety of others.

I call myself an idea girl, too. The one who thinks up ideas by the hour, some so elaborate that they’d require a staff. Many of them drop by the wayside, never seeing the light of day. I sometimes look back at those ideas and wish I’d pursued them — which brings to light that I am often not even a starter. I guess that makes me just a dreamer.

Maybe 41 is the magic number, though, because I’m seeing a new pattern of ideas (ohhh!) that become starts (oooh!) and even some victorious finishes (ahhh!). Or quite possibly, it’s not my age, but the new, more independent ages of my children that is making the difference. Whatever it is, I have a few figurative completion medals hanging on my imaginary trophy wall that gleam much brighter than my previous participation ribbons.

Some things are small — so small. On my front step, there are pots of pansies and johnny jump ups planted, brightening this spring’s chilly start. They’ve been growing there since early March — and spent several days under a thick blanket of snow. This may not sound like much, but I can’t even remember how many springs I’ve said to myself, “Next year, I’ll plant pansies early so we’ll have some early color.” This year? KABINGO! I did it.

A friend also noticed my new pattern. A couple years ago, I concocted a plan to start a creative writing group for kids. (Notice the word “years.” This has been a long time percolating in the old idea box.) Finally last fall, I had to do it. I couldn’t take it anymore — it was time. So I rounded up some friends who luckily shared my interest, set meetings to plan it, and now — well — our little group is full of young, budding writers. We split the duties between several moms, and we all love it.

“Emily,” said a friend, “look at you! You said you wanted to do something … and now you’re doing it!” I can’t take credit for all the work, but I’m very excited to see idea come to fruition.

Or take another accomplishment, also years in the making. Two years ago, I decided to add another plastic hobby tub to my life — the novel writing tub. I sat down with a premise and a dream and, well, I can barely even believe it, but I have finished it. All of my words are typed. My manuscript is complete. Editing is next, and that’s no small task in itself, but I can shout from the rooftop, “I have finished my novel!”

Is it a best seller? Oh, gosh, probably not. Who knows if it will even be published? But is it a monumental task completed by


? Why, yes, it is. And how did I complete it? One idea at a time. Ideas that I dreamed up, tackled with my keyboard, and then


. And then I strung them all together. Ta da!

I’ve spent some time worrying that I would never be a finisher, that my inheritance to my children would be comprised entirely of plastic tubs from my dabbling days full of unfinished latch hook kits and half-tiled bowling balls. And I’m sure they’ll be there — I don’t want to give them up. After all, you never know when you might want to spend an afternoon making origami flower balls. But I can rest assured now that they will also find evidence of progress and accomplishment. Because I am a finisher.