One for the Dabblers


Don’t you love it when an article in a magazine validates or at least identifies one of your quirks? You know, a trait or a behaviour that you thought nobody else had, that your family and friends give you a hard time about because they’re clearly not one of the chosen ones who get to enjoy such an element in their lives? Even better when the article paints this quirk in a positive light (what? you mean I may not be the spawn of hobgoblins after all? Please, do go on…) It’s like finding a soulmate on a page, a new friend amongst a bunch of words.

I experienced this feeling recently as I flicked through a copy of Psychologies from a few months back (hooray for Christmas where you finally have time to catch up on reading while you hide from relatives and recover from your food/drink/chocolate/fruit coma – choose as applicable). There was an article talking about people who are serial starters – they start all kinds of projects and either don’t finish them or finish very few.

‘Hey, that’s like me!’ I squealed to Nut, who didn’t bat an eyelid (probably coz he doesn’t have any). Yet his expression said it all. Yes, Kel, you started making *my* blog, remember? You started putting ideas together, started taking pics, started editing pics, but where’s my blog?


Well, I… Hey it’s coming, alright? Haven’t you got a spider to harass?

Whoops. That came out a bit defensive. But sometimes we do that when we’re challenged, don’t we? Particularly when it regards something that’s more or less a natural inclination for us. Something that’s misunderstood. Something that, for whatever reason, society/family/peers/Grumpy Cat deem undesirable. Or inefficient. Time-wasting. Deviant. Frivolous. Harking back to some underlying, old school belief about how life ‘should’ be lived.
‘You’re not doing your life right, you’d better shape up and get things together in the prescribed way or you’ll regret it.’
Hang on – whose life is it?!

That’s what this article was getting at, in a way. Honouring what feels right for you. Putting aside the guilt and instead adopting the assumption that, deep inside, you actually know what you’re doing (even though you may appear like a headless chicken bumping from one thing to the next!)
For those of us ‘serial starters’, we’re not lazy or quitters. Some of us are just wired to explore rather than settle. And who’s to say that it’s not the way to go, or that it’s going to be detrimental? Because often the dabblers among us can be made to feel inadequate, as if there’s something wrong with us for not having that ‘one thing’ we do in life. Yet, the world’s now changed in a way that actually favours the dabblers and jacks-of-all-trades.

So what if, in the bigger scheme of things, we’re actually ahead of the game? What if our occasionally criticised dabbling has given us a wide and varied skill set that makes us highly adaptable? Not to mention well-attuned to our interests and strengths? How is that a bad thing?

Another thing I loved about this article was its praise for curiosity. As any creative knows, permission to explore and experiment opens the way for those happy accidents and discoveries you never would have made if you only kept to what is known and accepted. A healthy dose of curiosity about life – your own life in particular – surely leads to a brighter, happier you.

In my experience, a brighter, happier me is the one that embarks on all kinds of new projects. Usually with the intention of finishing them, but not bound to doing so. (Pressure to finish things can sometimes stifle the joy of them.) I like starting different projects because I think they’ll be fun. I love learning new things. I love the energy of beginning. Sometimes I lose interest part way through. Sometimes I embrace it all the way. I can’t know till I get going. Coz how are you supposed to know what really resonates with you until you’re in the midst of it? (Riding the waves of ‘succeeding’ and ‘failing’ along the way too.) That’s what makes life interesting.

At the same time, the article suggests that sometimes the lessons we’re meant to learn arrive before we finish the task itself. Be it a book, a project or a course, if you get the feeling you got what you needed halfway through, rejoice! Now move onto the next lesson elsewhere; wherever your interest takes you, coz that’s where you’re going to be happiest. Imagine if we praised and valued our adventurous minds instead of scolding them!


I reckon it’s time to let ourselves off the hook regarding things we haven’t finished. Maybe we’ve already learnt what we needed to learn and our energy is best channelled elsewhere, into new things. If that is what’s happening naturally, why fight it? Relax and be more process-orientated rather than outcome-orientated. Who knows, maybe the process is the outcome, and was always meant to be.

*The article I’ve referred to throughout this post is called ‘Starter’s Orders’ by Barbara Sher, in Psychologies magazine, October 2013 issue. I started looking online for a link if there is one, but my brief search got nothin’. By that point I was already moving on to photo editing and finishing a block of chocolate (see I do finish some things!!) 😉