Friday, October 13, 2006

4. Is It Done Yet?

I know a guy who makes music. He has performed live on more than one occasion. However, he still hasn’t finished an album. Not because he can’t find a label to distribute it, but just because. Is he an artist? Absolutely. After all, he is compelled to make music.

However, his seeming inability to actually finish what he started makes him a wannabe. He wants to be a musician, he just can’t get focused enough to finish something. Don’t do that.

I have another friend who is in the process of writing a novel. He told me that someone made a cover for it already. “That’s great,” I said. “Have you finished writing it yet?” That was six months ago and the answer is still no. Don’t do that, either.

This is the critical juncture – finishing things. Nothing robs you of your credibility faster than your inability to actually get to the end of the project you’ve started. I can’t tell you how to finish whatever it is you started; everyone works differently.

I will tell you, however, that your friends and family are probably pretty tired of listening to you talk about this thing you’re going to finish any day now. In fact, if you told them when you started it, they’ve probably kept track, just to see how long it took you to get to where you are right now.

Once you get a few projects done, people are more willing to cut you some slack with your completion dates, but that first one is always a killer. One piece of advice that I can give you, though: pay attention to how long it took you to finish your first piece. Unless there were extenuating circumstances (you spent a month in a diabetic coma, for example), you can count on a lot of your subsequent work taking at least that long to complete.

And once you’ve finished whatever it is you’ve been working on, give yourself a month or so to relax, then start another one. The best thing you can do is to start to produce a body of work. Starting the second one will not be as scary as the first one was, I promise. The knowledge that you were able to get to the end becomes incredibly empowering and it actually gets easier to finish the next one.

Remember, laziness isn’t your worst enemy, inertia is. Writing takes hard work and a lot of it. But once you get used to working hard, it gets easier to do. The human being is an adaptable beast – make the best of this and put your nose to the grindstone early. By the time your life gets busy, you should be able to keep up.

It’s like walking: there’s really no trick to it. You just do it. And you keep doing it until you get good at it.