Whatever you can do.
My grandfather Selig died 17 years before I was born.
Obviously, I never met him. I know him through half-remembered, fragmented stories told around the family dinner table.
“He was hysterically funny,” I’ve been told.
“He would make prank phone calls and embarrass his kids all the time,” they tell me.
“He loved a good steak and whiskey on the rocks.” “He served during World War II.” “He adored your grandmother.” “Later, he produced movies in Hollywood.” “He was so creative.” “Your sister has his eyes.”
Who was this man? What was he like, really? Would we have been close?
I will never know. Yet I have always wondered.
Last year, a relative of mine unearthed a treasure:
It was a copy of Selig’s unfinished, unpublished memoir.
I never knew that this document even existed.
At a family gathering, she read from the memoir aloud. As she read, I heard Selig’s voice for the first time.
In this particular excerpt from his memoir, he was describing his first date with my grandmother. Who introduced them. How they met. What she wore. How nervous he was — and how he got horrendously drunk beforehand, waiting for her to arrive. His writing was electrifying, self-deprecating and totally hilarious. I felt his spirit in the room. I saw myself — my own writing — reflected in his tone. I felt more connected to grandpa Selig in that moment than ever before. It was like he was right there.
When the excerpt was over, I was greedy for more. Wasn’t there any more? Didn’t he write any more? Did he ever finish his memoir?
He did not.
He never finished writing it.
Do I wish he had finished? Of course. That would have been wonderful.
But honestly, I’m just so grateful that he wrote anything at all. One piece of his story — in his own voice — is better than nothing at all. That one piece of Selig will last forever and ever.
What piece of you will last forever and ever?
Are you so obsessed with “finishing” that you’re afraid to start creating anything at all?
Do you feel like a “failure” when you don’t finish everything you start?
Here is what (I suspect, I hope) my grandpa Selig would say to you:
If you feel called to write a book, an essay, a story, a list of advice, a collection of recipes — whatever — but you figure, “Oh I will never finish it, I’m too busy, why bother?” seriously, who cares about finishing? Write the introduction. Scribble down one recipe. One page, five pages, ten pages if that’s all you can manage. One tiny piece of yourself is hugely precious.
One day, your friends and grandchildren might be sitting around the dinner table reading your words and marveling at your beautiful heart, your imagination, your creativity, loving the sound of your voice, and seeing themselves reflected in you. They won’t think you’re a “failure” for not “finishing.” They’ll just be so grateful you created anything at all.
Finishing is over-hyped.
Whatever you can do — in whatever amount — is a gift, and it is enough.