We’re all WIPs…(works in progress)

By Caitlin Kelly

This is one of my favorite paintings…it’s huge, and hangs in a hallway at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It’s Joan of Arc realizing her destiny.

We live in a culture obsessed with being perfect and efficient and productive.

We’re human.

And a culture based on an industrial production model, aka laissez-faire capitalism, doesn’t really allow for much humanity, the times we’re slowed by grief or panic or confusion.

Give your tired old dogs a rest!

We can’t all operate at 100 percent all the time, even if some people expect it.

We get sick, with an acute illness, or a chronic illness or, worst, a terminal illness.

We nurse loved ones with these afflictions.

I see so many people flagellating themselves for not producing more (why not producing better?) or not meeting others’ (unreasonable) expectations or failing to keep up with others who may have the advantage of tremendous tailwinds we’ll never see or know exist.

We could all use a little break, no?

A common phrase among fiction writers is their WIP, their work in progress, i.e. a book or poem or essay they’re plugging away on, whether with a contract and a publisher or just a lot of hope and faith.


We’re all a work in progress, really.


Getting older (I have a birthday soon!) is a great way to slow down long enough to reflect on the progress we’ve already made, not just scrambling every single day to do it all faster and better.


It’s so easy to feel inadequate when deluged daily by a Niagara of shiny, happy, successful images on social media.

As if those were the (full) true story.


But everyone has a wound and a dark place and a weak spot, likely several, and they often remain well hidden, sometimes from ourselves and sometimes for decades.


Have you seen this moving, powerful TED talk?

It’s 12:58 in length, presented by a writer named Lidia Yuknavitch — who I confess I’d never heard of before.

Her talk reminds us that:

“Even at the moment of your failure, you are beautiful,” she says. “You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.”

It is so easy, at every level and stage of life, to feel like less than, a failure, a loser, and no one is ever supposed to admit it!

Only losers admit to feeling fear, envy, insecurity.

Not true.

We’re human.

And we all end up in the same place eventually.


15 thoughts on “We’re all WIPs…(works in progress)

  1. Pingback: We’re all WIPs…(works in progress) | Broadside | John Oliver Mason

  2. Yeah, I’ve heard quite a bit about this attitude lately. Work hard, produce great, don’t sleep, get it done. We’re not robots! I have my flaws, but that’s okay, because they give me something to work on and improve.And if I’m not working 24/7? Good! At least that means I have interests outside of making a living or being the perfect employee.

    1. Which — ironically — makes us much better at what we end up doing professionally because we’re fun and interesting, not burned-out shells.

      I also think being aware of progress (however incremental) is comforting. 🙂

      How’s the new job?!!

  3. I love that phrase that even at the moment of failure, we are beautiful and that we have the opportunity to constantly reinvent ourselves. That is so powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  4. “We live in a culture obsessed with being perfect and efficient and productive” — I think we could learn a lot from traditional Mediterranean culture: a long lunch break followed by a siesta. It’s a slower pace of life, although I suspect that this is dying out even among Mediterranean countries.

    Happy birthday in advance! So you’re a Gemini too? The same as me, not that I put much store in astrology.

  5. Pingback: Seven years of Broadside… | Broadside

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