“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
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.
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