Why You Must Finish Writing What You Started (And How to Do It)

Why You Must Finish Writing What You Started (And How to Do It)“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” — Neil Gaiman

Let me guess.

It’s stuck in the bottom of a drawer in your office.

Or maybe it’s lost on your hard-drive.

Or perhaps it’s sitting in a notebook in your attic.

I’m talking about the stubborn writing project you gave up on because it was too hard to work it out.

I know it’s there, because almost every writer gives up on a writing project at some point.

I’m no exception.

I stuffed dozens of short stories in the back of my drawer and gave up on publishing them.

And I let second and third drafts of a book rot in my computer.

Giving up on a writing project is a mistake, and it’s one new writers must avoid.

If you want to become a writer, finishing what you started is one of the best habits you can cultivate.

What You Get When You Finish Writing What You Started

Get to the end of your writing project, and you’ll get:

1. Your hands dirty: Studying the work habits and creative strategies of writers like Ernest Hemingway and John Caples is fun, but writing isn’t a spectator sport. <— Tweet this

You’ll learn more of this craft by wading in up to your neck.

2. To bleed: Great writers bleed onto the page and leave a part of themselves behind.

This is living, and the following day, these writers do it all over again.

3. The opportunity to make mistakes: If you ship your work and it’s badly received, you can use this feedback to become a better writer.

If you don’t ship, you won’t get feedback, and you’ll never get a chance to improve.

4. Smarter: Finishing a piece trains your brain to make new connections and come up with better ideas for your next writing project.

5. Answers to the questions that keep writers up at night: Are you a non-fiction writer, a copywriter, a story-teller or a genre fiction writer?

Finishing your work will help you answer these questions because you’ll know more of what you enjoy and what you’re good at.

6. Over the blindspots in your practice: Do you have trouble writing strong introductions? What can you do to write better headlines?

How can you deepen your research?

Treasures the difficult moments; they are the foundations of your writing practice.

7 Faster!: You’re an athlete and writing is a race. It may be a sprint, a ten mile event or a marathon. Whatever the length of your work, get through it and you’ll finish the next one faster.

8. The confidence that comes with finishing: When your article appears in print, your short story in a magazine or your blog post on a popular site, you’ll feel lighter than you have in months.

Then, when you sit down to write again, you’ll be hungry for more success.

9. A free education: If you guest post for a popular website, you’ll have the chance to talk to another editor who can help you improve your work and (if the relationship goes well) provide you with opportunities for future work.

This is the kind of feedback people pay money for.

10. Paid: Professional writers turn up, they do the work and they move on. And they get paid. You deserve to get paid too.

How to Finish Writing What You Started

If a blog post is holding you up, accept it’s not going to be perfect and commit to press publish by a certain date.

If you’re struggling with an article, contact your editor, ask them to review your work and provide editorial direction.

If you’ve been tinkering with a short story for months, find a writing competition and then use their deadline as your deadline.

If your book is taking longer than you’d like to write, stop researching the book and focus on writing it.

You can also:

  • Stop watching television (or get rid of it all together)
  • Document your word count and how much time you spend writing in a journal and use this information to identify what’s holding you up
  • Disconnect from the internet while you write
  • Hold yourself accountable by making a public commitment to friends, colleagues, and readers to ship your work
  • Write the end of whatever you’re writing and then work backwards

The trick to finishing stubborn writing projects is to work a little on them every day.

These small wins will help you gain momentum and make small but determined progress towards the finish line.

What to Do When You Finish Your Writing Project

FINISHWRITING WHAT YOU STARTEDFirst, congratulate yourself.

It’s important to mark these types of wins, however small.

Next, after a few days or even weeks, review how your work was received and identify what held you up.

Then, make a plan for avoiding these kinds of mistakes in the future.

Even if the final version of your writing isn’t as good as you hoped or if it hits the wrong note with readers, don’t worry.

You will have grown more as a writer than if you had abandoned your work because it was too damn hard.

Finally, start something new. Start the next great thing.

Now go out there and finish something. Your future readers are waiting.

Why You Must Finish Writing What You Started (And How to Do It)

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14 thoughts on “Why You Must Finish Writing What You Started (And How to Do It)”

  1. Really sound advice, Bryan – thank you. I’ve just had my very first article published (UK Huffington Post) and feel inspired to keep the momentum going now!

  2. Anthony Metivier

    Great ideas, Bryan. I’m guilty of having many things I need to finish. And I jump on “new shiny thing to write” syndrome.

    That said, I’ve never totally liked the Heinlein finish what you start logic. After all, painters abandon works all the time and even intentionally make studies they never intend to finish to build their chops.

    I know this is a slightly different thing, but I’ll still never understand why more writers don’t write like painters paint. All those dudes back in 1914 changed literature forever when they figured out how to do that and we could stand for a return.

    1. Interesting point about painters. I feel a blog post coming on! I know the writer and painter Natalie Goldberg covers art and writing in her books.

      When you’re starting off as a writer, it’s easy to abandon your work because you don’t feel it’s good enough. However, you can grow by finishing. Then later on when you’re more skilled you can make decisions about what to abandon.

      I’m also guilty of the shiny new thing syndrome by the way!

  3. Krithika Rangarajan

    This one is for me, Bryan! I have been struggling with one particular blog post since March – lol. Well, I have finally realized why it was bugging me, but I just need to now create my ‘shitty’ first draft

    Thank you #HUGS

  4. Thanks for the extra push to finish a blog post that has been sitting in my drafts for weeks. I knew I needed to get it done someday, but if I hadn’t read this that day wouldn’t have been today 🙂

  5. Hi Bryan,

    I find your posts very motivating and I really like your style of writing.

    As a busy mom I am guilty of starting so many things but never finishing anything because I never have the time (sorry, not complaining). It’s true, I am busy but I recently tried to organize my day better to see what I was doing wrong. I stopped reading news and I switched off all notifications. What a difference! What I also found to work very well is planning your day ahead, before you actually go to bed you should have a clear schedule of what you want to accomplish the next day.

    Keep up the amazing work you’re doing!

    1. Hi Kaia,
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the content. That’s a great practice, planning your day ahead in advance. I do that by deciding what I’m going to write (or attempt to write) the night before.

  6. Cathy Goodwin

    There’s a lot to be said for finishing because you learn about beginnings by reaching the endings.
    I’ve finished a lot – tons of articles, posts, a published book, even doctoral dissertation.

    But I agree with the earlier comment that sometimes you realize halfway through that your project just isn’t worth doing, especially if you’re experienced and/or you have an opportunity cost: you’re giving up a potentially profitable project to finish this go-nowhere one.

    You need to consider the complete perspective: what’s the pattern? what are the learning opportunities?

    1. Hi Cathy,
      What I like to do is consider if the project is worth doing before I start. To do this, I ask ‘Why’ three Each time I answer this question, I get one step closer to figuring out if the idea is worth doing. This article on Inc explains more.

  7. Eduardo Maldonado

    Hey bryan just got into your blog today, amazing content. Thanks!

    My partner always reminds me of the tarot reader who had my cards on the table telling me im going to write a lot of books. That I’ll be very profitable as a writer… That was years ago.

    I do have a lot of content in my mind that i want shared with the world, but ive been struggling with insecurities.. such as..

    1) Should i write in spanish or english? I love the internet and most of the people read and search in english, though i live in a spanish country. I see much more market in english, but a lot more “real” contact in spanish, like doing seminars, one-on-one contact (im soon to be psychologist).. what do you recommend to start? I think it will be eventually be both.

    2) my idea started as a website where people can access knowledge designed to help them be healthier holistically. Takes a lot of time to perfect something, its a project left aside. Conscienta.Net ; and i wanted this to be my book’s title and write several books with the same main title with different subtitles ( similar to: Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban) | ie Conscientia.Net – The 4 key elements to improve our holistic health. /

    3) Also blocked if it should be “our” “my” “your”… Ive read its good to write in first person so the reader feels he is talking to himself, writing “your” sometimes can feel personal and people can get defensive..

    4) i see some people get an artist name, like Osho. I dont really like my lastname Maldonado, it could be Eduardo Conscientia or just Eduardo. For most of my arts and digital presence i use Litoid. Does it really matter? Some marketers recommend to brand your name.

    5) More than money, the value i can distribute through books (also known as recopilation of writer’s best thoughts) is my main objective for writing. Still wondering.. being a writer is a profitable career? Last book i read was The Millionaire Fastlane, and he mentioned a book (specially e-books) are in the fast lane mindset.

    I have no experience -writing- “professionally”, but i do like talking about health, consciousness, psychology, human behavior, education, yoga, physical, mental and spiritual health correlations, and everything related to holistic health…

    I always wondered if its the same with writing as you mentioned “finding your writers voice”.

    I would love a feedback from an experienced person like you, please do at my email litomaldonado86@gmail.com.

    Will love to have a mentor in my writer transmutation process.

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