are you a starter or a finisher?

Fact: I turn the catsup bottle upside down until every last drop is squeezed out (which the HBH – Hot Black Husband – can’t stand). Finisher. 

Fact: I have 17 unfinished Word documents staring at me from my desktop. Starter. 

Fact: I am determined to make use of everything in the refrigerator, not letting one iota of food go to waste. Finisher. 

Fact: I am full of so many good ideas, but I’m not necessarily as good at nailing down the details in order to actually see a final product. Starter. 


So, what am I anyway?

And, might I ask, what are you?

This question has plagued my mind as of late. In Gretchen Rubin’s newest book, Better Than Before, she continues with her theme of happiness, this time wondering whether or not happiness is tied to the habits we make and (potentially) keep. The question of starter or finisher is one of the many categorical questions she asks of herself and of her reader in an effort to help prove her habit-making point. While she’s not my favorite writer in the world, I’ve continued to think about this question long after finishing her book.

You and I find ourselves in January, the month of new beginnings and do-overs and fresh slates. The finisher in me wants to believe myself a 50-50 mutt of starting and finishing, that I have the abilities to successfully start new projects and finish well, too.

And then it happens:

I walk into the bathroom and I see two little boys elbows-deep in pee-water, wet toilet paper sticking to their arms and their shirts, and to the curls atop their heads.

I kid you not.

I yell.

I scream.

I pry the one-year-old from the pee-water, hoping his brother will follow suit, hoping this will be the only mess of its kind today.

But then, dripping child in arms, I take a deep breath. I remember to breathe in …1, 2, 3, 4, and breathe out …1, 2, 3, 4. I remember that this too shall pass, that this thing called parenthood is not for the faint of hear, that this life we live is nothing short of messy and – still – I must train my eyes to see beauty in the midst of my ordinary, everyday life. I must learn to laugh at the things to come.

I wonder where being an in-betweener in the mess fits into the definition of starter or finisher.

Because it’s a both-and.

It’s about starting and finishing but mostly it’s about the in-between journey we take within those two points.

When it comes to parenting, we take off from the starting line sprinting. We think we have it all figured out before the baby actually pops out of the womb – then we hit our first hurdle, and we trip and we fall, because we forgot we’re running a race with hurdles placed at sporadic intervals around the track. There’s a whole lot of in-between in parenting.

When it comes to writing, I wanted to believe that upon finishing my manuscript – finisher, finisher! – I’d somehow be done and able to move on to the next best thing. I wanted it to be marvelous as is, and for all my editorial friends to look at it and proclaim my Dickensian ways. But that’s not the case, at all. I have major rewrites to do, rewrites that will likely look a thousand percent different from the first draft. Can I, will I continue to be a finisher, again? Can I find beauty in rewriting and rephrasing and redrafting my words? Can I believe the writing magic happens in the in-between?

And when it comes to my faith and spirituality, I want the race marked out for me. But it’s not so much about racing toward the finish line and collecting a bunch of Jesus-prizes along the way: it’s about being present in the everyday. It’s about noticing the what and the who in the grit and the glory already around me, and seeking to see and believe that the Kingdom of God might just be right there. It’s about this in-between, right-here, right-now life.

So, what is it for you?

Are you a starter or a finisher or a smack-dab living in the glory of the in-betweener?

Come play in the toilet with me,


Starter or finisher or in-betweener, what say you? Are you a catsup bottle finisher to the very last drop, or do you have five half-opened bottles alive and well and kicking in your refrigerator? I can’t wait to hear what you have to say! 

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6 thoughts on “are you a starter or a finisher?

  1. Cara, I can totally identify. I think I never used to be a finisher … have a lot of half finished jumpers in the cupboard that I began to knit one day and knitted furiously for a week and then… didn’t finish (don’t worry, I threw them all out long ago and content myself with knitting scarves now… you can finish them when you’re sick of it). I also have 3 (count’m three …..) that’s THREE books on the go to write… and lots and lots of documents open … God help me.

    But then I’ve also learned to finish stuff too… and getting better at it… maybe it’s an age thing…

    Be of good cheer… you’ll get it, one way or another… maybe those boys will grow up to finish what you started… or HBH might be like my husband… who does tend to finish what I’ve left undone.

    1. Ooh, Bev, I LOVE your perspective: maybe I AM to be a starter and let others be the finishers. I’ve never thought about it that way. I love and appreciate your perspective!

      Cara Meredith

      writer, speaker, musician.


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