09 April 2008


I have this problem with finishing things. It is, unfortunately, inherent in my personality. Because I like learning new things, I like starting new projects more than I like finishing old ones.

This makes it really hard to get any writing project from the Work-In-Progress stage to the Ready-To-Submit stage. It also causes me to flit from project to project whenever I get stuck (i.e., really, really often), which contributes to my tendency to never finish anything.

That's what's happening now. I decided I wanted to focus on one thing: finish plotting the dragon murder-mystery, so I could finish writing it. And I did manage to put some time in on it every day last week.

And then I got stuck.

And now my mind keeps wandering off towards several other projects, cajoling me with thoughts like: "Hey! Remember that story about mutagenic water? That was SO COOL!" or "Oooo! Shouldn't we draw up ALL NEW plot cards for the vampire story? Yeah!" and "Dude. Great new idea for another go at the first chapter of Novel #1. No, really, this one's a winner."

It's really frustrating, especially because one of my goals for this year is to complete and submit something. (I said 'short story' in that post, but I just don't know that I'm capable of writing anything that short, so 'novella' may have to do.)

Plus, this just keeps happening. Every time I get stuck, instead of sticking with it and doggedly working my way through the various methods of getting un-stuck, I allow myself to get distracted, convince myself that a couple of days spent working on that other project will give me the distance I need to come back to the first project with fresh eyes and poof! all will be revealed and whatever issue I was having will dissolve in a flash of inspiration.

That's not how it works and I know it.

Flashes of inspiration happen, and they're great when they do, but depending on them showing up is not how stories get written. Stories get written by writers who keep at it and keep at it and keep at it until the story is told.

I can come up with a hundred and one excuses about why I can't do this - Ms. Baby was sick all winter, I have 7 manuscripts to edit and 4 grant proposals due next Thursday, Ms. Baby hates sleeping, Ms. Five has a soccer game or practice every night this week....

The list goes on and on and on, but the fact is this isn't a time issue. I can and do find time for writing. This is a focus issue - specifically a staying focused issue.

I can do this for work-work. It wasn't easy, but I learned how to keep myself from letting projects fall by the wayside once my initial interest in them waned. I keep To Do lists. Five of them. Color coded, in fact. The yellow one is the master list of everything I have going at any one time, the others keep track of the details of each project. I LOVE checking things off even more than I love starting new projects, so just having the lists keep me motivated to complete things.

Hmm. Maybe I should adopt a similar system for my writing projects. I suppose it could work... wonder why this never occurred to me before....


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