This Quitting Habit Can’t Sabotage My Writing Life
No longer shall I be the queen of unfinished things
Standing in front of a wall of yarn at Michael’s, I had an epiphany. Well, not really an epiphany-epiphany, but a slap upside the head that I had no business buying another skein of yarn to disappear into my already large stash. I’ve no idea what most of that yarn is for, but I sure do like to start new projects. It’s exciting!
So, I searched the internet for the possible reasons I am an “unfinisher.” You know what that is, right?
You probably do because I found countless articles written about why people drop projects like hot potatoes. I now know that I am not the only “queen of unfinished projects.” I’m one of millions! I learned, too, how to overcome this very common problem and find the power inside me to finish the stuff I start.
When I get on a roll with something, it’s really hard for me to put it down unfinished. — Taylor Swift
Hush up, Taylor.
As I retire from a career in higher education, I feel my goals shifting and that means the projects I am taking on are changing in focus as well.
Almost two years ago, I decided to embark on a writing life. It’s a long story why I want to take the journey, but I expect I will write about that too.
Becoming a finisher
It’s likely I will finish the red sweater I started knitting last summer. I got distracted by other things, it seems. Finding a pattern and buying yarn is one of the most exciting parts of knitting! The boring part is knitting hundreds of rows of purl stitches. That middle part is the real work and it feels a bit like writing.
Now that I’m a writer, I worry about starting books or articles that I can’t finish. I hear this is a common problem for writers of all kinds. Since I clearly lack the discipline to finish all I start, why should writing be any different!? But right now, I have the motivation of a newbie and the bonus of an encouraging husband and family.
I decided I need a solid plan to at least finish the two books I have already envisioned.
Building a plan
Plan my time: I love making lists! Random scraps of paper don’t work for me, so a physical planner is an important component of my planning strategy. A writing plan requires daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals. I prefer a planner than also allows me to reflect through journaling my progress, or lack thereof. Regardless of daily life issues, writing must be a priority. Writing every day is essential, even if it must be squeezed in some days.
Create achievable writing goals: To complete my current romance novel, a first draft goal of 100,000 words is reasonable. I’m no Stephen King and don’t expect to write 2,000 words per day. Thus, completing it by October is not achievable, even though I’d love to be doing my first editing pass during NaNoWriMo.
But I did the daily-word-count math and think I can finish a first draft by February 28, 2021. While I could be done drafting by the end of January, the winter holidays command a lot of my attention. It’s important to be honest and realistic with myself. If I beat my goal date, good for me. I will definitely let YOU know.
Leave perfectionism behind: To enjoy the writing life, I must finish something. To channel author Anne Lamott, a rotten first draft with acts one, two, and three completed is better than no full draft at all. Perfectionism has always been a crutch for me. It’ll be a challenge to keep pushing through a story without editing as I go along. (I’ve already edited several paragraphs above. Surprise!)
Goodbye, Unrealistic Expectations: Escaping the prison of perfectionism
Belonging to a community
The writing life can be a lonely one not well understood by those closest to a new writer. Or an experienced one! (I’m thinking about Jack Torrance right now.) Entering into a fraternity of writers provides innumerable benefits, some of which I’ve listed in order of importance (haha!):
- Cry on a shoulder
- Learn about writing craft
- Overcome obstacles
- Get encouragement
- Be held accountable
- Find a critique partner or two
- Cultivate a group of beta readers
If you took away my writing group you’d sap my will to live, let alone my will to keep writing. — Kimmery Martin
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