When Is “Finished” Actually Finished?


Every project has an end in sight: completion. Whether I’m writing a novel or a song or making a walking stick from a piece of dead tree branch, I always have the same goal: making it the best it can be.

But when is “finished” actually finished?

When I start carving the bark off a dead piece of branch, I know I’ll also need to file the nodes as far down as I can. I can only saw them off so close to the branch itself, and sanding them down is tedious and sand paper-consuming.

Then I do some serious sanding with course sandpaper, making sure to round off the edges of the top of the  stick to make it safer. And sometimes having to file or sand the bottom end enough to fit a rubber furniture tip on.

Then comes sanding with fine sand paper. That doesn’t take much work, but if some of the bark proves uncarveable, the sanding can result in loosening some obnoxious “threads” of bark that take forever to get rid of.

A coating of linseed oil brings out the grain, and then two or three coats of polyurethane give it a lustrous shine. Even then, however, just when I think I’ve finished, I’m apt to find places I didn’t sand smoothly enough or “threads” that feel unpleasant to the touch.

So that means more sanding of something that had seemed complete. And redoing the linseed oil and polyurethane.

When is enough enough? Whenever a finished walking stick is finished, I guess. When there’s nothing left for me to do to make it better.

That’s true of my novel writing as well. Beginning novelists think they’ve done something really special when they complete their first draft, and they have. But if they think their books are anywhere close to finished from a publisher’s or reader’s point of view, they’re sadly naive.

It normally takes me twelve to twenty complete times of editing and revising that rough draft before I’m tempted to call it complete. The rule-of-thumb seems to be “don’t do it any more if the improvements are so minor no one can tell the difference.”

Writing novels that will be read by other authors as well as by regular readers is tough. Other authors are pickier readers. I certainly am.

Now that I’ve gotten into indy book publishing , I’ve found there’s even more to the problem of when finished is finished. I had to submit one recent manuscript to CreateSpace three or four times just to get the cover photo to look right. On other books, a reading of the proof copy may reveal a simple mistake or two that I can’t permit to be included in the final edition.

Even in the print version of my latest book, Wherefore Art Thou Ramon, after paying in succession for three proof copies, I discovered one blank page in my intended final copy. As tempted as I was to correct the file and resubmit it, that change might adversely affect some other page. And changing that one might affect another one.

So I bit the bullet. Enough would have to be enough.

Song writing has its own set of problems, because it’s hard to be sure I’ve correctly notated the music in Personal Composer software. But songs also have a different kind of completion problem. I wrote a song in 2010–“God’s Words.”

I made some changes to the words a few years ago, and right now I’m in what I hope are the finishing stages of adding a refrain to the song. It was complete before, but soon it will be even more complete.

I’ve added bridges or refrains to at least four or five completed songs during the past few years. Are they really complete now? Are they really finished?

I sure hope so.

Jesus knew his earthly mission–dying for mankind’s redemption–was complete when  he uttered, “It is finished” from the cross.

That’s the ultimate kind of completion because it doesn’t require anything more.

Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Parable of a Walking Stick

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I enjoy walking. In fact, it’s the only kind of exercise I do. I’m not concerned about building arm muscles or tightening abs. I just want to strengthen my heart and keep it functioning properly as long as I can.

You may also know that I like to use walking sticks when I walk. As a fellow who could trip over a line in the floor, I’ve found walking sticks to be a simple–but necessary–thing for me to keep in the car and beside the front door as well.

Although I don’t use one for non-exercise walking, I foresee that changing in the near future. Why chance an unnecessary fall?

Although I have a couple of purchased walking sticks, the two in each of our cars are ones I lovingly made. So are the three or four by the front door and the dozen or more sitting out in the shed.

Several months ago I noticed a piece of tree branch lying in the drainage ditch while I was walking through our neighborhood. My first thought was, “Good grief! That’s seen better days. Too bad. It’s the perfect length. But would it be sturdy enough and not so dead it would simply snap in two?”

After passing it by several times and thinking the same thing each time, I finally stopped and examined it. I couldn’t break it.

So far, so good. It was strong enough. Maybe that piece of a branch wasn’t totally unusable after all.

Probably half of the bark was already pealing off. What could be easier than to remove the rest?

So I brought it home, finished stripping the bark, and cut off the worst of the nodes where smaller branches had been attached. Then I did my usual sanding with coarse sandpaper and then with fine. I applied one coat of linseed oil–boy, did that bring out the grain!–and three coats of polyurethane. Maybe a little excessive, but I not only wanted to protect it against rain and other water, but also to give it a super-glossy sheen.

Then I fitted a rubber tip on it. (Furniture tips are a lot less expensive than cane tips.) I couldn’t tell you the number of compliments I’ve gotten on it. I love telling people the story of how I turned an otherwise useless length of tree branch into a thing of beauty–and something that’s extremely useful as well. Something to lean on when needed.

The left-hand pictures below are of a piece of branch I rescued earlier this week. The only thing I’ve done to it was to break off enough of the little branches to get it in the car. The right-hand pictures are of the walking stick I’ve been talking about.

             

I believe God sees us when we’re broken, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually–and useless to anyone, including ourselves. He sees the potential. He knows what it will take to rejuvenate us and turn us into something more beautiful and more useful.

How easily He takes us into His perfect hands and strips away the useless parts, cleans off the rough places, and puts on us a special finish of love, mercy, and forgiveness–and we end up shining like never before.

Only under God’s workmanship do we become useful for other people to lean upon as the walking sticks He knows they need for their journey.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Walking Sticks

I’ve seen enough pictures of the Holy Land to appreciate how important a walking stick must have been in biblical times to anyone traveling by foot. Not only for stability, but maybe even for defense against robbers and wild animals.

I’ve been reading from the Old Testament the past few weeks, and I’m in Exodus now. It’s been interesting to read once more about Moses throwing down his staff–I’m assuming that’s the equivalent of  a walking stick–and having it turn into a lively and rather frightening snake. And then God telling him to pick it up  and turning it back into a staff.

Later on, when the Children of Israel were complaining about the lack of water, God told Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and that made water flow from a rock. If I remember correctly, Moses got in trouble with the Lord later on when he tried to do the same thing on his own initiative and not because God told him to. In fact, wasn’t Moses’ disobedience the thing that prevented him from being permitted to enter the Promised Land when they finally got there?

I’ll bet Jesus used a walking stick, too. He certainly did a lot of moving around from village to village, and He and His disciples had to walk. I often wonder what His walking stick looked like. No matter what kind of wood it was made from, I suspect it had a well-worn look by the last time He used it.

I often use a walking stick, too. Not because I can’t walk without one, but because I can trip over a line in the floor. So it’s especially important for me to use one when walking at the mall or in the neighborhood. In addition to adding stability, it helps me keep my rhythm in walking. Unlike walkers in Jesus’ day, I doubt I’ll need it for defense, but you never know.

Even though a physical walking stick like you see me with in this unusual selfie adds stability to my physical movements, what’s ultimately more important is leaning on the Lord for my overall walk through daily life. David knew what he was talking about when he wrote in Psalm 23, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Those words of assurance are comforting and good to lean on.

How about leaving a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

          

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