Here’s one New Year’s resolution I may actually keep: updating this blog more often!
A friend recently shared a quote by author Neil Gaiman (in addition to creating fantastical fantasy worlds, Gaiman always has the pithiest and most on-point writing advice.) He states simply:
“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”
A writing professor of mine in college, William Kelly, made a similar observation: “the only difference between a professional writer and an amateur is professionals finish what they start.”
I think that’s what was ultimately so important about finishing my first novel – the finishing. Regardless of whether it’s good, regardless of whether it gets published – I now trust myself to be a finisher of things.
Finishing a project – having something concrete to show for your efforts – also makes you feel legit. After completing the manuscript, I found myself finally answering that terror inducing question, “so, what do you do?” with “I’m a writer.” Because I knew I’d have an answer to the inevitable follow up, “so what do you write?” “This,” I could now say, “I wrote this. You can read it.” 🙂 Suddenly it was tangible and real. So I could finally say the word and mean it (instead of just mumbling whatever job I happened to be doing for money at the moment.)
I used to say I’d consider myself a ‘real’ writer (whatever that means) as soon as I got published. It hit me recently that that goal is ultimately out of my control – that’s someone else’s decision. All I can do is be a finisher of things.
The second half of Gaiman’s quote is spot-on too: you can’t learn from a half-formed, half-finished thing, only a completed one. As I confront my second novel – currently in its messy 2nd draft stage – I have no idea how this new book will turn out. I can’t know yet. It isn’t done. You can’t analyze something and work on it at the same time. There is no perspective in the middle.
Writer Jayne Ann Krentz, Jayne Castle, and Amanda Quick (who are all the same person! #thingsyoulearnatRWA) said when asked what her favorite book was: “the one I just finished,” and what her least favorite was, “the one I’m currently revising.”
I keep these quotes in mind as I struggle through one of those periods where getting anything done feels like long, hard slog. All I can do is keep pushing through, till I figuratively or literally reach, “The End.”
New Year’s is often looked at as the time to start things – and that’s good too – but sometimes before you can begin the new you have to deal with the old – all those half-started projects and un-kept promises that have a way of crowding out new plans and whispering insidiously, ‘you can’t finish this.’
Sometimes just finishing one thing, however small, lets you trust yourself.
So that is my wish for you in 2015 – that you experience the joy of finishing that thing, you know what it is, that you’ve been wanting to finish.
There will always be more things.
Feel free to share what you’re finishing this year in the comments 🙂