I have a lot of trouble leaving things unfinished. I’m not sure where it comes from, but once I start something, I have a low-level compulsion to finish it, whether it’s my dinner or a bottle of wine or a novel.
This is great when it comes to home projects, because all I have to do is literally put one brushstroke of paint on the wall and I am locked in to painting the whole fucking house no matter what. No. Matter. What. It’s not so great when I over-order lunch and grimly force myself to eat all three hamburgers because by god I do not leave things unfinished.
It’s also great for the writing, because I finish all my writing projects, which makes for a lot of material. This is a good thing, and something more writers should engage in, because finishing a novel or story is a skill that will serve you well.
Marathon, Not a Sprint
Here’s the thing: Just about every creative project you ever engage in will lead you to a low point where you want to abandon it. The novel will get messy and you’ll wake up one night convinced that the premise is stupid and you’re screwing it up anyway. The story will lose its forward momentum and the brilliant twist ending will seem less and less brilliant as time goes by. Your rhyme scheme for the epic poem about your cats will sound harsh and uninviting to your ears. That sort of thing.
It’s soooo easy to give up. So easy to just close the file and shrug—oh well, it didn’t work out. And this is occasionally backed up by the times your writing is effortless, which happens for me sometimes. Sometimes I go from idea to completed novel in a few months and it’s like a dream. And when that happens it’s easy to imagine that’s how it should always happen.
Except, it doesn’t, really. Writing is usually gonna be hard work, and so learning how to force yourself to finish things is a skill you’re gonna be happy to have. And getting that skill starts right now: By finishing that crappy novel you’re ready to give up on even thought it’s 40,000 words and almost coherent. Get back in there and begin training yourself to finish stuff. It’ll pay off.