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On Unfinished Projects

November 22, 2011
Rebecca Hein emailed this article to CGA.  She is the author of A Case of Brilliance.  Do you shake your head in frustration when you look at the unfinished projects of your gifted kids?

On Unfinished Projects

by Rebecca L. Hein

When my two gifted children were in early grade school, I used to worry that they’d never be able to finish anything. My mechanically-minded son in particular would start building a “free-form” K’nex structure, or begin composing a song, then abandon these projects halfway through. Would he grow up drifting from one thing to another, never really settling down to anything?

Too many interests seemed to be part of the problem, with a new idea taking over before the previous one had played itself out. But seeing this didn’t reassure me much, though it helped me understand the phenomenon.

When my daughter, at age eleven, decided to work her way through The Timetables of History, making a list of all the entries in a category and formulating a reading list for each historical event, I knew she’d never finish. So I began to see that a voracious appetite for learning could stimulate projects so vast that completing them was impossible.

Despite these insights, I wasn’t fully reassured until, in mid-life, I began to understand my own creativity, especially my writing habits. I routinely began pieces and abandoned them, half-done. While the fire of an idea burned in me, I could work on it. When it cooled I felt lost; then a different insight would take hold and I’d write about that.

Finishing less than half of what I began, I was still quite productive because I had so many ideas. In my children I was seeing creativity at a less developed stage where so many ideas called at them that the best they could do was to capture a few among the many and work these out as far as possible. Then another blitz of ideas would hit, halting everything else and starting the cycle again. Over time this process smoothed out, and in their late teens Annette and Lewis are quite focused and finish many projects.

Best of all, what goes undone is never lost. It cycles back into our unconscious minds, later to emerge in more developed or more useable form. Thus, unfinished projects have a purpose: to help us work out our ideas and to move our creativity forward.

Read an entire sample chapter of Rebecca Hein’s A Case of Brilliance at

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