Writing Anxieties: Finishing Things

They say to beginner writers that the first, hardest step is starting, putting pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard. That to take that first bold stroke is what separates you from those who write and those who don’t.

I’m going to call bullshit on that. Because frankly? Starting something is easy. It’s the seeing it through and finishing it that’s the hard part.

It’s the same thing in other parts of life as it is with writing. Half begun projects of arts and crafts varieties litter many a house. Schemes of various corporations, think-tanks, universities, schools, and the rest of them, grand ideas that ultimately go no where.

Exactly the same with writing.

Ideas are easy. I can sit of an afternoon and have half a dozen, and even come up with a decent plot in the confines of my head. But it’s the putting it down on paper, structuring it, making it coherent to someone who is not you…that takes time.

What often happens with me is this: have idea. Put aside current work-in-progress that I’m slogging through. Type up notes for idea. Get into idea, and decide that it is going to flow brilliantly and smoothly and the process for this is going to be perfect and amazing and will work out so much better than any other project before. Keep writing. Hit wall. Freak out that this is not in fact the most perfect and amazing process of creating a piece. Assume this means there’s something wrong with me as a writer. Put work aside…or get distracted by another idea. Repeat.

And you can see what happens as a result. Work doesn’t get finished. And as much as any writing can be practice, the act of seeing something through to the end is part of that. I learned that when I properly won Nanowrimo a few years back. Two years before that I pounded out 50,000 words of what I now call draft 0.5 of the Dragon Novel, and while that large amount of words was an accomplishment, there was still a sense of not having quite made it. It was only in 2008 when I actually finished the story itself in 50,000 words that I felt that sense of having made it. Of course, it was a flawed piece, and needs a massive amount of revision, and may ultimately be a ‘trunk novel’ (I live in hope it will not be), but still, it was a sustained, complete story.

I’m still trying to get into the practice of finishing things. Getting better with it, but still, there is that anxiety of all the works in progress sitting in my writing folder. That I wonder will I ever finish all the works I have there, will I get back to them, will the work I’ve put into them before mean something. I am starting to learn that an unfinished work isn’t the end of the world, and that some ideas don’t just work as well as others, and that perhaps I did learn something while I was working on a piece that ultimately lead to no where. But it’s finishing stuff in the meantime too that needs practice. It can be like punching through concrete, or waiting for your forehead to start bleeding, but after that, the feeling is way better than the fretting over the unfinished.

Then I think about that really great idea I had while at work…