Unfinished canvases and abandoned pursuits

Srinidhi Valathappan | The Chronicle

As I lie awake in bed, I see the outline of the half-finished 24 x 18 canvas leaning against my bedpost. 

Last summer, I learned how to paint in the style of ancient Kerala murals and finished an intricate painting over the course of three months. Excited by the possibility of further painting ideas, I started planning my next mural. 

There’s something deeply satisfying about the idea of starting anew. The promise of a blank canvas, whether it be a literal one or a metaphorical representation of a fresh beginning, is exhilarating. However, the thrill of starting often overshadows the commitment required to finish. My life is a gallery of half-painted murals, incomplete novels, and abandoned projects.

For days, I had my canvas propped up against the wall. Armed with enthusiasm, I gathered the necessary materials – brushes, pigments, and a bowl of water (that soon evaporated). As I started sketching the outlines of deities and mythological figures, I felt a surge of creativity. Each brushstroke felt like a step closer to realizing my vision. Yet, as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, my once-dedicated art corner gradually transformed into a neglected sanctuary of half-finished aspirations.

That was more than six months ago. The mural, once a symbol of my artistic ambition, became a silent witness to my struggle with commitment. I’d pass by it daily, each glance accompanied by a pang of guilt. The colors that once danced in harmony now stood frozen, waiting for the touch that would bring them to life.

However, this painting was far from an isolated case; it was just one of the several unfinished paintings strewn across my room, half-baked business ideas filed away, and partly-written novels in my Google Drive that haven’t even made it past the drawing board. In fact, my Notes app could show you just how many projects I have on my wishlist – 57, to be exact. I’ve started probably around 20 of them, and finished just three.

My multitude of hobbies combined with a short attention span is the perfect recipe for a vicious cycle of impulsively trying new things and losing interest just as quickly. Although I often know that I don’t have the time or the energy to finish many of the projects I take on, it doesn’t stop me from starting new things anyway.

Each fall break, winter break, and summer break, I promise myself that this is the week I’ll finish all the half-finished projects collecting dust in the corner. And while I made steps of progress, I still didn’t have anything to show at the end, because despite all that I did, I never finished any one project.

What keeps me from finishing though? Is it the fear of imperfection, the thrill of trying new things, or simply a lack of discipline? In our culture of creating the Next Big Thing, novelty often outshines completion. 

My unfinished mural serves as a reminder – to confront my need for new beginnings and to stop evading the hard work that comes with seeing a project through to the end. True beauty is not just in the promise of a blank slate, but the satisfaction of completion. Even if I don’t create a masterpiece, I know that I will have put in the commitment to persevere, and I will have witnessed the evolution of a concept into a tangible reality.