I am truly awful at finishing. It’s not that my stories get lost and wander out of control, with no idea of how to bring them home. Except for one sad attempt at a mystery that turned into a ghost story and wandered off into the heavens, I can generally see the end, and the path is clear to get there.
In fact, I tend to race towards the end a bit too fast. I have to slow myself down, and take time to smell the paper roses. I sprint, writing my heart out, all the way up until the point where it really looks like I’m going to finish.
And then? Without the glorious motivation that comes once a year with NaNoWriMo? Then I pause. First I tell myself that I’ve earned it. I’m almost there, what does it matter if I watch a quick TV show? Then I remember this other story that I’ve been dying to tell. I’ll come back to the other one, I swear, but an artist has to follow her muse, right?
I was beginning to fear that it was fear itself holding me back. Once a story is finished, that’s when the scary things start. First there’s the editing, which always causes some heart palpitations. What if I can’t make it as perfect as it is in my mind? Worse than that is what follows: The submitting. Rejection is flat-out terrifying, and anyone who says otherwise is masochistic or lying.
It’s not just writing, though. I can see this unfinishing habit all throughout the rest of my life.
Cleaning. I will scour the bathroom, and get distracted from the rest of the house by re-organizing my lip glosses. Then I’ll remember that website I saw that taught you how to make your own glittery lip gloss. I’ll power up my computer and get distracted by my iTunes library on the way, and by this point cleaning is ten steps behind me.
Cooking. Last week I discovered an awesome recipe for chicken with parmesan, kale, green beans, and mushrooms. I did a big shopping trip, and set everything up. Then I ate raw green beans and put everything else back in the fridge. Maybe I’d cook the mushrooms the next day. I know big meals with many ingredients are good things, intellectually, but I can’t seem to get past the planning stage and the tasty individual ingredients.
Reading. I have seven books next to my bed with bookmarks in them. My GoodReads bookshelf is starting to get overloaded. No further comment needed.
Knitting. I’m pretty sure I don’t have a fear of rejection that revolves around the cute little cotton tank top I started back in 2004, or the blanket from 2007, or the sea cable hat from ’08. My warmies love me no matter what. I finally decided to institute a rule: Before I can start a new project, I have to Finish two old ones. Even if Finishing means tearing it to pieces, burning the bits, and burying the ashes out behind the old garden shed.
Last night, it finally hit me. Why not apply that same rule to my writing? And when I say Finishing, I mean edited and submitted. To that end, I reorganized my files, shifting everything into Finished, Unfinished, On Submission, and Published folders. Now before I start anything new, I have to move at least two things out the door, whether they’re short stories or epic novels.
Seriously, this is good. I wasn’t doing all that just to avoid finishing that story about hobo fairies. I swear.