For me, one of the most disappointing things about myself – second only to the fact that I have a list of the most disappointing things about myself – is that I’m a finisher not a starter. Lots of my close friends are starters; really creative starters, with a capital C. Artists, TV makers, theatre directors, interior designers, I hang out with them all. I think that’s what attracts them to me: the knowledge that when they get bored of an idea I’ll take it, tidy it up, file it and send it off with a clean invoice.
It’s something I used to worry about a lot, when I was still busy carving out a career in a world full of natural creatives. My most successful career progression to date came from an interview for a dream editorial job on a monthly glossy. Without intending to, I managed to confide in them that I would be rubbish at the job, but I’d make an excellent managing editor, something they weren’t actually looking for. I think the exact phrase was, ‘I’d love to be the artistic type you’re looking for but actually I’m just dead good at schedules.’ They hired me, and I organised for several happy years.
Having children is like taking a master class in starter-hood. But even after several years of extremely productive starting, the moment that I’ve closed the bedroom door on a successful day of feeding, entertaining and instructing is my maternal high point. Much more so than the ‘Oh joy, here comes the paint’ moments.
And, as I slide rapidly from newborn motherhood into the endless life-lessons phase, I’m realising that by definition I need the ability to see the bigger picture, and not expect to have things tied up nicely by the weekend. I think I’m predisposed to tackle motherhood as a project with lots of successful endings, rather than a process with lots of exciting beginnings.
More of a concern though is how this finishing instinct has continued to develop in the rest of my life too. I know we’re all inclined to shut the front door and get into our pyjamas at 8pm on occasion, but I think I have become truly professional at avoiding starting anything that I can’t finish before Newsnight. The fact is that there are several phone calls I should make at the moment, but I don’t have the ability to solve the problems or take away any of the pain at the other end. So I’m simply avoiding the issues, and hoping that someone with a more creative approach to life is finding the right words where I’m not. Then I can just send them a thank you card when it’s all over.