Abandoning, not finishing

Somewhere in the first chapter of the book I talk about how the 9 Precepts are neither linear nor hierarchical: you don't "start" with TASK AVOIDANCE and zip through WASTE BOOKS on your way to finishing at ABANDONMENT.  (People who think like that probably think you stop at AUDIENCE anyway.)

On the contrary, the whole thing is looped, loops within loops, backtracking and double-checking and revising.  Every SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION is an ABORTIVE ATTEMPT.  APPROXIMATION leads to GESTALT leads to APPROXIMATION. It very well could never end.

The popular misconception about artists is that we work and work on our piece, and just as we're being called for lunch, we exclaim, "Just a few more brushstrokes, darling, and I'll be done!" and dab dab smear, we are!  We step back from the canvas, wiping our brush and nodding our head in satisfied approval.  Cue Jupiter's Theme.

If only.  Yes, most of the time we have a sense that we're done.  At best, we think it's probably finished; at worst, we acknowledge there's nothing more we can do.  But poet Paul Valéry said it best: a poem is never finished, only abandoned.

As an example, you can see in the photo my scribblings on a draft of the chapter on TASK AVOIDANCE.  I was working on it last night with a lovely fire in the fireplace, ignoring the late winter cold outside.  There was probably a cocktail at my elbow, say, a Bijou.

In my printed draft there were some holes I had to fill (GESTALT), but the chapter has been largely put together for a while now.  But look at it: all the emendations, the scribblings, notes for other chapters.  Will it never end?

And this is before I've made any attempt to go through it and make it clear and/or interesting for any AUDIENCE.

As I worked last night, I began thinking of each little section as being part of a surgery, and I was slowly suturing my way out of it.  A little stitch here, a little transplant there... You want to do it so that you don't have to go back in, but you find yourself stitching up the patient knowing that there was probably more you could have, should have done, but it's done now—some people just have to live with two noses, you know?

ABANDONMENT: not necessarily the end.