31 October 2012

The Trouble with Finishing

For Halloween, I was hoping to write a short story about a serial killer to post here. But seeing as I have written only half a page and work is fast approaching, I don’t see it happening. This leads me to think about a big issue with writing, which is simply getting it done.

When you start writing something, isn’t the ultimate goal to finish it? You plan out the entire thing, see every scene and detail clearly in your mind—so why should completing your work ever be difficult?

Time would be the most obvious answer. Most writers who are just starting out probably also have a full time job, one that might have absolutely nothing to do with writing. Maybe you have a routine 9-5 sort of job, but if you’re like me, you have no set schedule and don’t even have the same days off every week. And when you do have free time, there’s still laundry, cleaning, cooking, running errands. There’s also time spent with your significant other, family, friends, cat. And of course the most important thing of all—sleep. It doesn’t leave a lot of free time.

But you’re a writer, so you must write. So you sit down in front of your computer, or with a notebook in your hand, and you end up staring at the blank page. And you know it’s not writer’s block—you want to write! The problem is that you’re actually overthinking it. I do this all the time. I refuse to write even a sentence before it is perfectly crafted in my mind. So I don’t get anywhere. You can’t really make anything perfect on the first try. If you refuse to write anything less than perfect, you probably won’t write anything at all.

But there’s a third factor in this, and it may be the most important one. Odds are you wouldn’t even realize it. Because deep down, somewhere in your subconscious, you don’t want to finish. You’re afraid of the “Now what?” that happens once you’ve finally crafted your masterpiece. That first rush of creative energy that made you write in the first place won’t be there anymore. You’re afraid of editing, of slaughtering your work. You’re afraid of rejection once you try to send it out into the world. But maybe part of you doesn’t want to finish because you don’t want it to be over. There was something that drew you to this particular story, some love of characters or plot, or just an idea. Finishing your work means letting that feeling go.

I’m not sure how to sum this up, how to wrap it up in a nice little bow. I don’t feel I’m in the same place as when I started. But we all know we have to finish, because what else is the goal? What is all the time and energy and passion for? I guess that’s why we keep trudging along. 


  1. Once I embraced writing is rewriting I was able to topple over one of those obstacles. I don't let anyone read what I write until its in third draft and complete and even then its rough at best. Finishing is only a midway point and, even after a myriad of rewrites it may all begin again once purchased and in the hands of the publisher's editor. As far as self-imposed deadlines are concerned, the work will dictate its own timeline, even hibernating in a drawer for a year if that's what is needed. Your subconscious will work the next rewrite as you sleep.Write and let write.

  2. Yes, it seems like finishing is really only a beginning once you try to get published. Rewriting seems like a daunting task to me right now, but I'm about halfway through my draft and already have a huge list of things to fix, and even know already that I'm completely cutting the second chapter. I've gone through a million different deadlines I've made for myself. The slow pace can be frustrating, but forcing the creativity might be a worse alternative.