Saturday, July 24, 2010

The curse of the unfinished project ...

I’ve learned to be wary of my own enthusiasms. What seems like a fantastically wonderful idea in the early morning hours may collapse within days, deflated like an old balloon. It is so tempting to plunge right in and start whacking away as soon as the thought occurs. And so discouraging when, several hours into the project, a fatal shortcoming shows up. Or the sustained interest just isn’t there, the point is lost, and the whole thing gets consigned to the back of the file cabinet.

Another thing that dampens my fervor is the discovery that what I have is not a NEW idea at all -- my so-called innovation has been done by everyone else long ago. Of course if it still works for me, who cares?

So, when a lightbulb goes off over my head these days I like to take a while to ponder ALL the possibilities. I’m certainly not against spontaneity -- it’s just that most seemingly good ideas need time to mature. The best way to proceed, I find, is to write out the new-found project idea in the form of a realistic goal and the steps needed to get there.

One day I thought I’d like to create, and print, descendant charts for all my end-of-line ancestors, coming down at least four generations. The first try worked well and with a good deal of tweaking I even got it to fit on a single legal-size page. But the next one had so many children and so many marriages I simply could not manage it. And then a look through my files showed that I had tried this sort of thing many times before.

I was forcefully reminded that what works for one family line isn’t necessarily going to work for them all. Sometimes we sacrifice too much in an effort to be consistent -- or let the notion of keeping things uniform discourage us completely. Some families move a lot, others stay put. Some have multiple marriages, others don’t. Where family history is concerned, the only thing that is consistent is the lack of consistency!

This was my most recent lightbulb thought: to create a set of family history albums, one for each of my/our five major lines. It is an extension of the narrative idea I described last time, and would include, as well as the story line, an illustrated pedigree, the above-mentioned descendant charts, and selected photos and documents. I already have archival binders with many items included, but for this project I would like to begin afresh. Sometimes trying to revise an old unfinished project is just too discouraging, or distracting.

I’ll let you know how it comes along next time.


DianaR said...

I can SO relate to this!! Sometimes I tell myself that I am NOT going to start something new until I finish x - but then I quickly abandon that approach. Good luck on your latest project!! :-)

Nancy said...

I can't tell you how many unfinished projects I have, and not just genealogy projects. It has been so much better for me to think the projects through, although there are occasions when a very good idea never materializes because I've over-thought it. I think that in general it's better to think through the process and decide what the intended outcome is, though. I hope you have great success with all your future projects!