I’ve always struggled with finishing what I start. It’s probably a foundation stone in my personality. Great at starting things. Trash at finishing them. Except books, for some reason. Reading them, I mean. Writing them? Well… let’s talk about that. And some other stuff.
I’m a Sprinter by Nature
Physically, for sure, I was built for speed. Growing up as a kid, the only kid in elementary school faster than me was John Cena (yes, the WWE wrestler). No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch him, but I loved trying. Sprinting is my safe place. Maximum power right out of the blocks. Hold nothing back. That mentality bleeds into literally everything I do in life, really. I suppose the apt term to describe me is “Hardo.” It’s generally used disparagingly, but I embrace that identifier. You better believe I’m a Hardo, folks. YOLO. Go big or go home. Do, or do not. There is no try.
The problem with that all-out, 150% mentality is that I have a tendency to… hit the wall. If I can’t crank through a project quickly, there’s a real danger that I won’t ever finish it. I guess I’m like Gimli. Very dangerous over short distances.
But, sometimes (like with Gimli) I surprise myself with my own long-distance fortitude. Which brings me to the main point of this particular post.
I Have a Finished Draft!
If you didn’t know, I’ve been working on a novel. It started as my MFA creative thesis at Lesley University under the guidance and encouragement of one of my favorite human beings, author Chris Lynch. You can read about some of my earlier adventures drafting this book HERE. That was was in 2018.
True to myself, I went full throttle from day one. And, I wrote a full draft of a novel. Huzzah! But… it was broken. Hey, at least I realized it was broken, right? The problem was repairing it. That took about two years, with lots of stops and starts and wrong turns that required backing up and starting again. In between those stops and starts were long bouts of not writing because I just didn’t know how to move forward. Frustrating? You bet. I kid you not, about two months ago I was on the verge of just abandoning it.
When Lightning Strikes, Write!
I was going along in my day, minding my own business, not even thinking about the book when, BAM! The problem revealed itself and the solution became obvious in an unexpected flash.
I was not allowing my characters to drive the plot forward. Duh. So focused was I on having my MC do X, Y, and Z to finish things that I didn’t realize her antagonist would never in a million years allow any of those things to happen. Too bad, author. It’s just not going to fall out that way. Back up, and let the characters take the reins. Finally, I understood.
So, I set a goal. Life was busy. I didn’t have a whole lot of time each day for my creative endeavors. Still don’t (teaching during a pandemic is bananas). How about 500 words a day? That’s two pages. I could do that, right? Yes, I could. And I did. In just a week and a half, I finished the draft I’d been struggling with for years. Seems fitting that I sprinted to the finish line. I mean, that’s who I am, apparently. A sprinter.
Owning Our Own Personal Processes
I envy writers who are super consistent. The ones who plod along, getting a little farther in their projects every day, week by week, month by month. Their consistency. Their routine. I hunger for that, but I don’t think that will ever be me. Just like I wish I could run three miles (heck, let’s be real; I wish I could run just ONE mile) without doubling over and sucking wind. It’s just never going to happen.
The more honest I can be with myself about who I am and how I operate, the more likely it will be that I achieve my goals. You can’t trust the process if you don’t know the process. For me, the process will be HIIT sessions of writing: fast, furious bursts of productivity interspersed with long periods of downtime and metal recovery. If I can learn to be okay with that, maybe even enjoy it, then maybe I’ll start finishing more projects.
What now, indeed! I’ve got a draft of a novel. One that is NOT broken, just dirty (as all first drafts are). Huzzah! My brain is screaming, sprint!!! Run at that thing as fast and as hard as you can. But I don’t think that would be a smart approach. When I emailed Chris Lynch to tell him I’d finally found the ending to that creative thesis he got me started on way back in 2018, he wrote back with the sage advice that I tuck it away for a while and turn my attention to something else.
So, what shall I work on next? There’s a corkboard on my office wall with hand written pages pinned up in various shades of fountain pen ink, and they all bear the same title: “Story Idea.” Guess it’s time to peruse my options.
What’s YOUR process, fellow creatives? Do tell. Are you comfortable with how you naturally tend to operate, or do you wish your brain worked differently? Regardless of what your struggles might be, I hope you are able to overcome them and be successful in whatever it is that you are doing.
Thanks for stopping by, and as always, happy writing!