It’s the middle of February; if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution, statistics say that you’ve likely broken it by now.
I’m in a small minority of people who DOES manage to keep my resolution, I’ve kept my resolution for five years now and I’ll continue to keep it. The reason I’m so sure? I make the same resolution every year: For every project I start, I will finish one unfinished project.
One of the most difficult stumbling blocks to my resolution is when I attempt to finish a project that has involved other people. I’m working on a few unfinished projects this month. One of them is all mine, another involved Writer Colony Press and the other… well, not every group of people is unanimously concerned with finishing projects. But I’m sure it will have a happy ending one way or the other! Determination and good hearted people are far more endemic in the world than those who blindly roadblock because of their own bitter disappointments.
Writer Colony Press is a press that I’ve worked with before. A major project that we are working on is an anthology in memory of Terry Pratchett. The proceeds go to support the research that is ongoing into Alzheimers, the dreaded disease that robbed Mr. Pratchett of his brilliant mind and ultimately of his life.
I LOVE writing for The Longest Night Watch Anthology. It’s so much fun! I was reading a note and thought that I’d missed the 2018 call for stories… but it wasn’t, it was the call from 2017.
It turns out that I did have a story accepted for the call out and after a few people got to talking… everything came together and Volume 3 of the Longest Night Watch will soon be available for sale! Woohoo!
There is a phenomenon in the writing industry (and any creative pursuit) called the lure of the shiny new idea. The lure is a powerful thing and hard to resist.
The end result of chasing the lure of the shiny new idea is a plethora of unfinished projects that sit unread and unpublished. The fear of not following the shiny is that the beautiful new idea and the energy contained in it will be lost forever. It’s not cool to ignore the shiny new ideas; they’re part of what makes being a creative person so delightful!
But the downside is the huge number of files where you’re unsure of what exactly you were writing and where that idea was going… Onward! To the next shiny new idea!
It’s no way to live. It’s where the bad reputation of creativity comes from. Creative people are labeled as flakes, unreliable. We are being unreliable if we never finish the projects we begin. There’s a certain humility to bowing your head and gathering your energy for something that you neglected. It’s like asking for forgiveness after going on a shiny new idea binge (I’m sure there’s a twelve step program!).
One year I looked at the colossal number of unfinished projects and decided that I would devote time to each orphan project for each new one that I followed.
The results were astounding. First of all, I became extremely prolific because I had so many projects that were close to being finished. They only needed that last little bit of dedication to finish them. A little bit of elbow grease and voila! An entire novel was completed!
Second of all, I learned to have more stamina. Working on finishing these projects and realizing how much more work it is to lose my inertia by abandoning a project and returning at a later date taught me to have fewer orphan projects.
Third, it raised my self esteem. Every time something is abandoned, there is a part of our mind that secretly dwells, mourns and chastises us. You may not even realize it’s going on in the deep recesses of your mind until you pick up the project again. The guilt is even greater if other writers were involved. I’ve recently dealt with writers who, when approached about a project finished but unedited and dropped when it was slated to be published years ago, broke out in a rage!
(How embarrassing for them! Can you imagine the pain and guilt they’re experiencing to act like complete nut jobs because they feel so much like they’ve failed?)
Getting back to unfinished business has taught me one thing about writers and the writers who share the burden of publishing: some people are born writers and other people think they’re going to get rich and famous and write for no other reason.
I don’t believe that if you are a writer you can ever stop writing. You might have a pause, but I don’t think you can ever STOP. The rage of failure in particular convinced me of this. The person who was so angry had come to me years ago and put a post up in a writing group that I kept for the purpose of encouraging writers.
I was dubious about her, it seemed strange, opportunistic. She said that she had been an airplane hostess and that she was now pregnant and stuck at home: this seemed like a good idea.
She seemed like a goodhearted person so I let her solicit in my writing group for writers and contributed to her collaborations myself. When she came to write in a collaboration that I was directing, things abruptly changed. When someone else is guiding things, I’m quick to agree, quick to change my writing, it’s their ship, I’m not going to argue with them! Suddenly when she was on my project, she became pugnacious and angry when I pointed out a chapter she had written that made no sense.
She quickly came to the conclusion when other people noticed the same problems, that we were ganging up on her! Unknown to me, this disagreement resulted in her nurturing a long, simmering hatred toward me that makes here look like a mad women! Unfortunately, she’s one of the people who is involved in a long ago project that I’m trying to get to the light of day. She furiously asserts that no one can take anything anywhere… if I’m involved in editing.
I think the fact that her publishing project ceased to produce projects and didn’t generate revenue may have contributed to her anger. It convinced me that she had never been a writer at all and gave me fresh determination towards my ‘orphans’. Her assertions that she owned everyone’s writing (except mine, since I had it in writing that I owned everything I wrote before I contributed) were not answered when I asked her what legal contracts she had to say she owned the other’s writing.
It’s amazing how success, even if that success is simply to make sure that things get finished and that you keep on keeping on- can make some people furious!
If you are a writer, you need to write. When things are bad, you need to write more than a junky needs heroin. For other people, when things are bad, and success is unseen, they drop their writing and slink away, ashamed of what they see as failure.
The only failure is giving up on what you’ve begun. The only failure is fury over creativity and a generous heart. The only failure is in the orphans you’ve left behind and never revisit.
So hurray for all those people brave enough to pick up their orphans and to keep on keeping on! Hurray for all the people who get some joy out of the orphans who are reclaimed and brought home to get their life completed, no longer miscarriages, but happy, joyful children that are sent out into the world.
Most of all, hurray for Volume 3 of The Longest Night and all the warriors and loving guardians of the written word who have picked up their words and returned to finish this volume of hope and humor. Congratulations to everyone at The Writer’s Colony on the upcoming publication and picking up the longest night watch… the watch over our own creative whims.