In the academic department where I did my doctoral work, one of my professors once said to me, regarding an idea I had proposed as a paper to a particular conference, "Well, you've got the idea, and that's the hardest part." This truly perplexed me, because at the time, I had ideas for at least ten such papers, none of which had anything to do with my dissertation topic.
Fast-forward about eight years to the present, and my running list of ideas for things to write extends into the low triple digits. If the next ten years sees half of those ideas published, that would be a lifetime of scholarship for many people. Add in all of the devotional, non-academic writings that I have done and plan to do—which currently (in print) runs to five entire books and contributions in the form of essays, fiction, and poetry to another thirteen publications—and the list becomes very long indeed . . .
But, the purpose of the present column is not to brag about the contents of my C.V., academic or non-academic; indeed, if having peer-reviewed publications was as valuable in a collegiate setting as so many people seem to think it is, I'd be in a better situation employment-wise than I am at the moment (and have been for the last six years). It is, instead, to stop for a moment and take stock of how much I have left undone rather than what I've actually been able to accomplish thus far.
I am sure I'm not unusual in the fact that I come up with ideas relatively easily, and often have a great deal of enthusiasm for them when that "new idea energy" is strong, all the pieces seem to be falling into place, I'm feeling inspired, and I have the engaged attention to begin work on a new endeavor. But, then other things (inevitably!) come up, one runs into a rough spot, or for whatever reason one loses focus, shifts directions, has one's initial confidence shaken, or in some other manner doesn't see the project through from start to finish. Even with projects where I am able to maintain that level of intensity in the work throughout, toward the end I start to lag, often putting off the finishing touches for days (or longer) because of . . . I'm not even sure what, to be honest, a lot of the time.
I'm entirely certain that once I'm done with a project, yet another will come to take its place in my attentions and further others will soon start to populate my "to do" list. It's never that I think a particular poem, essay, story, book, or other work will be my "last" and my streak of good luck with the writing gods will have run out; it's something else.
This month of July, as part of my devotion to Disciplina, whose holy day began the month, I've been trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible, and to finish as many things as I've started as can be managed by me without going insane or never sleeping. I've had three hard deadlines to achieve this month, with two coming up at the end, and have been able to complete one of them at this stage. I'm sure the other two will sort themselves out; but, in the meantime, a further two with softer deadlines have arisen. I've also just completed my fifth devotional/polytheist book , A Garland for Polydeukion. Looking a bit further ahead, by the end of August, I'd like to have two more short books done and dusted, and I'm fairly certain that will work out as well. But, even if I get all of these things done (and I have every confidence that I'll be able to get at least 90% of them done), I still have four other books to finish up—two of which won't take a lot of effort—and innumerable other projects looming on the horizon.
If I were to die tomorrow, I'd feel pretty happy about what I've accomplished in my life to the present; however, my biggest regrets would be not what I've done, nor even what I've failed to do, but instead what I didn't yet have the chance to do, both in terms of many of these projects, but also as far as all the places that I'd like to visit and people I'd like to meet who I haven't yet had the chance to see or meet. To do all of these things, it takes not only the proper coincidences of opportunity and means (and thus timing), but also work and effort. Books do not write themselves, usually; and even if they do, they don't format and edit themselves. While I may be better off financially in the future (hopefully the near future!), that doesn't mean I'll automatically be able to take that trip to Rome I've wanted to for years just because I may have the money to spare for it. Meeting a person that I like well enough to have a long-term relationship with (or even a shorter-term one—I'm flexible on such matters!) doesn't just depend on me being in the right place at the right time and them being likewise; and even if we are, it's not just a matter of being introduced and then "happily ever after" (or "happily for as long as it goes").