Deciding to Finish

We’re getting towards the end of November now, and for anyone participating in NANO, you should be coming to the end of your 50,000 words, with a week to go.

Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you made that all important decision to start, but now you’re flagging. Maybe something’s come up in your life, or the bustle of the holidays started too early, or a thousand other things that could be coming between you and the end of your project.

Maybe you’re not doing NANO at all, but the writing habit is still having a hard time sticking in your day to day schedule. It’s time, then, to make another decision.

Decide to finish your project

Right now. Tell yourself that you will finish the project you’re working on right now. You don’t have to edit it. You don’t have to publish it. You just have to finish it.

Why? Because that is the hardest part.

Once you’re project is done, you can put it away. Tell yourself you don’t have to look at it anymore. You’ll probably want to, though. There’s something about a rough draft that screams for a red pen. But if you tell yourself that you don’t have to, you want to, it will come a little easier. And trust me, editing takes more time, but it’s not nearly as hard as creating from scratch. Think of it as the difference between weaving fabric, and cutting it up to sew something.

You’ll know you did it.

Tell someone you’re a writer. There’s something like a 60% chance they’ll tell you all about how they want to write, to. They probably don’t have a finished manuscript, though. Finishing a rough draft, no matter how messy, sloppy, coffee stained and cliché ridden, is an accomplishment to be proud of, and it’s something most wannabe writers never do.

Besides, it gives you a huge endorphin boost to complete a big project. It’s good for us to feel like we’ve accomplished something.

But there’s going to be that moment when you have to make that decision.

Now, if you’ve read all this before you’ve hit your wall, you might be scoffing at me. You might still be on that first awesome waive of first draft glee, and thinking about what to wear for your author photo. If so, that’s great. You might not come to that point where you have to decide to keep going. But you probably will. I did.

Maybe it will be writers block. Maybe your commitments to your day job will increase. Maybe you’ll become a parent. Or maybe you, like me, will rather suddenly find yourself in the middle of a nasty custody battle not of your own making. No matter what it is, something is very likely to make you question your devotion to being a writer.

Sometimes you won’t have a choice. Sometimes your writing will be your saving grace in those moments, but maybe not. And you know what? That’s okay. You can put the project down if life’s getting in the way.

But that does mean that at some point, if you still want to be a writer, you’ll have to decide to finish. You might even have to decide every day to keep going.

And that’s what really separates the writers from the people who just say they want to write. Decide to finish.

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