January 4, 2016

Motivation Monday: Paul Valéry


"Work is never finished, only abandoned."
(you'll find several variations of the quote, but that's the essence of it)

Paul Valéry 1871-1945 was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher, probably best known for his diaries, the Cahiers (notebooks). Every day he would write in his notebooks, exploring arts, sciences, philosophy, history, politics, and social issues to better understand the human potential for thought. Of these notebooks, he wrote: (a second great motivational thought of the day!) "Having dedicated those hours to the life of the mind, I thereby earn the right to be stupid for the rest of the day." 

Fun Facts about Paul Valéry:
  • He was a poet until one day when he decided he needed to get rid of the "falsehoods: literature and sentiment” and devote his life to studying math, philosophy, and language. So maybe not the best muse for fiction, but still an example of intense thinking and studying, which are huge parts of writing anything. Also, he came back to poetry later. He couldn't stay away!
  • Born in Sète, in Southern France. 
  • Married a girl, Jeannie, he met through Stéphane Mallarmé, another French poet, and they had three kids: Claude, Agathe, and François.
So What?
I read this quote two ways. 1) You could work on the same thing FOREVER and always find ways to improve it; therefore, when you've done the best you can with a project, you just have to decide you're done and move onto something else. 2) Because some ideas take off better than others, sometimes, you have to realize it's time to cut your losses--even if it's not finished, you must be the one to decide to abandon it.

Abandon is such a sad word, and it depends on what your writing goals are, but lately, I've decided project abandonment isn't always a bad thing.

As the new year takes off, I love the opportunity to refocus efforts on new projects and decide it's time to move on from old ones. This month I'll talk a lot about reframing my own writing narrative--both by finishing some things I'm excited about and abandoning others. Good luck to you in making those same decisions!

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