What You Started

Posted: February 8, 2016 in writing
Tags: , , , ,

So in the plethora of writing advice it’s not uncommon to see one particular shred of wisdom that makes a lot of sense: You have to finish what you start. No amount of pie in the sky hoping and dreaming will change the fact that nothing can happen if you don’t sit your but in a chair, write, and actually finish a project.

In the past year I’ve been guilty of not following that advice.

I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t following it until I took stock of what I’ve been up to recently, where my interests and focus has taken me, and all the shiny things that capture my interest. Spoiler Alert: I have not been faithful.

Particularly in the new year my focus has been scattered. I’ve thought of at least three other stories I would like to write. Worse, I’ve penned  parts of them down. I’ve also rekindled my love of knitting and fed my addiction to video games.

What I haven’t been doing is writing the story I’ve been working on for the past two years. Yes, I really have been working on my book that long, and no, I have not given it the priority it deserves. I haven’t been sitting my butt in a chair and writing.

The sad part about my predicament is that I have a lot of it written already in longhand. Hell, I have a lot of it typed up in snippets that just have to get looked over and edited. More to my public shame, I have just about everything mapped out in my mind’s eye if not on paper. (Honestly, I may have written a story outline as well at some point with just about every main point I could possibly need to know to steer my straight and true.)

What I’ve been lacking in is discipline. I sit down after a long day at work, try to get a little writing done, and then… oh, hey, did you see that? I should really get that done. But I’m writing… eh, I wrote a few paragraphs, that’s more than nothing, and that means its something, right? I tell myself that a few paragraphs every few weeks is acceptable, that as soon as I have the time I’ll sit down and work on it. I’ve been avoiding. (Avoidance is quite possibly its own topic wrapped up in fear of failure, so we’ll leave that here for now.)

The problem is that avoidance doesn’t help anything. I keep telling myself, “This year I’m going to finish it. I have it all planned out. I’ve created a deadline.” But I don’t hold myself to it. What I need to establish is some sense of habit. A way to push past my sleepy brain through training.

In short: I have to be more strict with myself.

This week starts Lent, the 40 days before Easter when good Catholics are supposed to focus on preparing themselves, on making themselves better. In high school my psychology teacher used the time frame to conduct a habit-breaking/creating experiment. (I think 50 days is the actual threshold for habit formation, but I may be making that up. After all, it has been 10 years since I took that class.) For me… I’m not particularly religious anymore, but I can see the wisdom in taking the time to refocus. In recent years I’ve used it as a time to curb my road rage, stem the flow of profanity, or treat others with more care and compassion than I may otherwise afford them.

Last week I realized it’s that time of year once again, and couldn’t think of what I wanted to focus on. Perhaps I owe it to my creative self, the one who yells at me for avoiding my book, to spend the 40 days refocusing my writer’s craft.

Or I could once again work to minimize my cursing, because Lord knows I’ve become too lazy to express displeasure using anything beyond words that describe excrement and fornication.




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