Making Big Dreams Real: dancing with unfinished projects

For the past 4 days, I’ve spent 15 minutes a day reading Isadora Duncan’s autobiography. I’ve set my pink piggy timer, grabbed my book, my pen, and my post-it notes, and read until the timer buzzed.

This is very important.

It’s not important because I’ve been reading a non-blog for the first time in ages (I have). It’s not important because Isadora was such an incredible, fascinating person (she was).

It’s so important because this is my first step toward completing a project that has been in the back of my mind (and my laptop) for YEARS.

You know the projects I’m talking about: you get a brilliant idea and you maybe work on it a bit, but then life gets in the way (or someone criticizes your tender beginnings) and you just…stop. And that project sits at the back of your mind (or your closet or your hard drive) collecting dust and making you feel sad (or guilty or angry or whatever) every time you think of it. But you can’t seem to get started on the project, and you decide that it’s too late, you’re too old, or too busy, etc etc.

…but that project stays on your mind anyway And you feel like crap about it.

That’s been my life for a very long time now. And yes, I do suffer from tiny plate syndrome (a tendency to load up on projects and courses and things), but I’m willing to commit 15 minutes a day to making that nagging feeling go away. Hence, Isadora (more on that in a second).

pomodoro timers by psd on
Timers come in all kinds of adorable shapes! (Image by psd on

A couple of days ago (well, four, actually) I finally got around to listening to a teleclass called “You and Your AMAZING Unfinished Projects” by Samantha Bennett. She made some points that really resonated for me:

1. Our unfinished projects are amazing because they contain energy. And you can tell that they contain energy because you still think about them, and they have an energetic effect on you when you do. (This is SO TRUE. That’s why we feel crappy when we think about the project(s) we’re not working on).

2. Spend 15 minutes a day of working on whatever your unfinished project is, and that energy will be freed up in your life. Things will start moving. And you will eventually get that unfinished project done. (Note: You could do less than this. You could do 10 minutes or 5 minutes or 3 minutes—whatever. All that matters is that you do something every day.)

3. Your work on your projects releases their energy out into the world…and makes room for more in your life.

4. My favourite: It’s not too late, you’re not too old, and yes, you do TOO deserve it. Your talent cannot be destroyed, even if your skills are rusty. (LOVE this one!)

It was a pretty incredible call. I recommend it.

I have two Big Unfinished Projects that have been gathering dust for years (three projects if you count Anthem, but I already wrote about that one). Today, for the first time ever, I am going to share them with the world. Because even though it’s scary, it feels like it’s time. And because I’m a big believer in the power of putting things out into the Universe.

1.  Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan.

My hard drive currently contains drafts of 13 poems based on Isadora Duncan’s life and writings. For the past 5 years, I’ve dreamed of writing more of them and creating an anthology of poetry, but life got in the way and I stopped working on them. Until now. 15 minutes a day with Isadora’s writing, marking promising passages as I go. One step closer to finishing my unfinished project.

2. Emily Carr’s Forest Dances

Seven years ago, I wrote and presented a paper on Emily Carr and Georgia O’Keefe at a Canadian Studies conference at Trent University. And as I selected images to write about, I got the idea of creating a series of dances, each of whose movements would be based on one of Emily Carr’s paintings. Then I discovered the work of Canadian composer R. Murray Schaefer, and his music fit perfectly with my vision. I was beyond excited. I had the music and paintings selected and matched up…

Then I shared my idea with a mentor, and she told me that it would be too difficult to create something like that. And I believed her instead of sticking with my gut. And I stopped working on it. Out of all of the choreography I’ve thought of but haven’t created, this one bugs me the most.

I haven’t spent any 15-minute increments on this one yet, but I am officially declaring my intention to do so. And my first 15 minutes will involve finding my notes about the piece and the paintings and music I intended to use. Even if this one has to stay on the back burner for a while until my tiny plate has cleared a bit, I say to the Universe, “Yes. This. I want to make this dream real!”

15 minutes a day is not very much at all. What kind of magic could you make with that time?

4 thoughts on “Making Big Dreams Real: dancing with unfinished projects”

  1. Woohoo!!!

    I remember the Isadora Duncan project, though I thought it was another type of book. Poetry? Wow, you rock. I couldn’t even write a single piece of poetry each time it was an assignment in school. I have not a single poetry bone in my body. I’d LOVE to read yours!

    And the dance one. You need to make that happen!

    I’ve been taking time to work on a project or two myself, though mine are of much smaller scale. It feels good to do it, though!

    1. YAY!
      It does, doesn’t it? I’m thinking of applying the technique to other things. Like decluttering and crafting and things. Heck, I’m thinking that setting a timer could make the monumental project of cleaning the kitchen *that much* more bearable!

  2. HOORAY for Meg! I was absolutely thrilled to bits to see this post in a “pingback” notification and it completely makes my day that you have so taken the lessons to heart – I can’t wait to hear how this plays out for you! Remember: The World Needs Your Art.

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