I know the temptation of the New Year to clear the slate, push all those half-finished projects and goals of last year to the side and start fresh. The pressure of everyone slapping on new resolutions like fancy new outfits could make anyone feel like a slacker.
Consider instead finishing something “old” or “in-process” at the New Year instead.
Here’s why I suggest it.
That half finished novel, the short story you intended to send to that contest, the stack of essays you think might make a memoir—they may only physically live on your desk or your desktop, but here’s what you may not realize: unfinished projects also live inside you, in all their impartial nature. They take up psychic residence in your mind, your heart; they’re like the cluttered attic of your creative muse. And when the muse is weighted down with what hasn’t been completed, it’s harder for her to help you create new material.
But what if it’s crap?
• “Crap” (i.e. raw, unpolished work) never turns to creative gold until you finish it. It can’t. And you won’t ever find out if you’re hung up on perfection.
• Sometimes, starting a new project is a form of avoidance. From personal experience, when I hit a bump in my work, when I know I have to go deeper, tear something apart, stretch into new territory, my urge to start the new project hits an all time high. Finishing is doing the work.
• Completion brings pride. I always feel a little endorphin high of elation when I finish a draft. Even when I know it’s only a draft, at an early stage of a project, with so much more distance to go. Because without it, I had no draft, nothing to revise, just a jumble of words in my brain.
• Finishing lets you see the merit and potential of an idea. Yes, some ideas will ultimately never fly to an audience. But they almost always give birth to other ideas, new avenues. And, you test and stretch your skills with every project, so something you did on an “experiment” will still pay off in your next project.
• Finishing a project is a way of valuing yourself, your work, your words. It’s taking you seriously. It’s being true to your work. It’s also one of the most important steps in building a long-lasting, sustainable writing practice that will give back to you during difficult times.