Starting ain’t nothing compared to finishing
I’ve been starting written pieces for 20 years. I’ve revised far fewer written pieces in that time. And finished even fewer.
Starting is hard. I make a dramatic production most times before I settle into the groove. My arms flail internally and I wish I could smoke just 1 little cigarette to help me get started. Except then I remember that I still went through this when I smoked. Starting is a familiar struggle. I have some tricks up my sleeve to help me settle in. I’ve developed some helpful habits and I have go-to internal pep-talks. I know where to turn for inspiration and I do.
Revising is a different skill. It requires a willingness to let go and move forward. It takes maturity, open-mindedness and faith to inventory what works in service of the story and to let go what doesn’t. Like Faulkner said, you will have to kill your darlings–your darling anecdotes and stories, your darling descriptions and meanderings. Dancing that dance means looking ahead and not internalizing edits as personal failures.
Finishing. Completely different animal. I don’t finish much of anything. When I clean the bathroom, I leave the medicine cabinet door ajar and my tennis shoes in the middle of the floor. It’s good enough, but unfinished. It’s the perfect solution. The messy room is no longer irritating but I don’t have to feel that empty panic that comes with finished.
5 Reasons Why Finishing is So Terrifying
Finishing means memorializing how god-forsaken-awful today’s best is. This is the best of what you’ve got. You know, and I know, that it isn’t good enough. It could be better. It could always be better. Put it down in the history books for posterity, baby. Sarah Yost SUCKED ASS on this day in 2012 even though she thought for a minute that it was AWESOME. Chilling.
Finishing means facing the gap between what you had hoped to create and the reality of what you actually produced. The novel you’ve been plotting in your mind for 3 years is much better than the one you just wrote. As smarty Crys Williams said, ” Tying a bow on all that potential is difficult.”
Finishing means facing that no unicorns will be waiting when you’re done. At the end of the day, best seller list or not, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just another circumstance changing. And even though you should be so proud, it’s still just another thing. You still need to take a shower tomorrow, change another diaper, fix another dinner. Life is still life. And you are still you.
Finishing means feeling the feeling of finishing and its attendant terror.
Finishing means letting go of the promise and hope of what this project could be and facing what’s next. It means living with the day-to-day reality of distributing it, cleaning up loose ends, returning the phone calls you let yourself avoid, etc.
Fuel to Get it Done
Listen. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
What will be better for you when you’re done?
What will be the same for you when you’re done?
What will be worse when you’re done? Lean in. The answer to this one holds the source of your fear and the road to your freedom.
Be gentle. Be sweet with yourself. Acknowledge that it’s scary. This is not the time to power through or feed yourself a bunch of messages about how you should just get on with it.
Don’t believe yourself. Just because you’re thinking it, believing it and feeling it doesn’t make it true. The mind creates all kinds of diversions to avoid feeling the fear of finishing. If you suddenly need to clean out a room, sell your house, get a divorce, change careers or kill yourself, it’s probably just the fear talking.
Do whatever it takes to get it done. 9 tips that actually work.
- Break it down into manageable chunks.
- Do something to make it more fun: work alongside a friend or supportive community, with a cup of awesome tea and dark chocolate, wearing a superhero cape, listen to good music
- Reward yourself for finishing each chunk. Big reward for finishing completely.
- Don’t let yourself start anything else until you completely finish this.
- Remind yourself that the only way to improve is to get through this project, for better or worse.
- Set a deadline.
- Talk about it publicly.
- Disassociate completely and hit send. Then bury your head under a pillow until you can deal.
- Remind yourself that if it isn’t that good no one will pay attention anyway.