Enemies of the Art Part 8–Being a Starter Not a Finisher
Starting is easy. It’s exciting, fun, new and shiny. Anyone can start something. Heck, The Spawn starts at least ten things before 7:30 in the morning. When we start something new, we are pumped. We have people around us cheering. Everything is fun. We seem to have boundless energy.
Starting is necessary, but starting needs to become habit and become focused. The world rewards those who finish. We can start a new book, but once the “new idea smell” has worn off, we must transition into the mature artist’s version of starting, which is Just Do It.
Stick to what you are doing. Get started every day. When the project is weary and tired and so are you, then start again and again and again. Mature professionals ignore their feelings. They know feelings lie and feelings are our inner three-year-old who is easily bored or distracted.
I’ve worked with some really talented people, people probably more talented than me. The problem? Lack of focus. Always something new, something better. This time this project will be different. Uh huh. The problem is that success involves a lot of what isn’t fun. In fact, being successful involves a lot of repetition and drudgery. It entails learning tasks we hate and doing chores that bore us.
Ask any multi-published author and they will tell you that a book they loved at the beginning, they hated by the end because they were so sick to death of it. Granted, after a little time passes, we love our work…because there is a completed project to reflect upon.
Chronic Starting is a TRUE Enemy of the Art
Why? Well, a number of reasons.
We Can’t Grow
Pressure, stress and being forced into areas that just plain hurt make us grow and mature as artists. If we aren’t finishing books, maybe we need to understand plotting and structure better. If we keep starting new books, we never push into that area that forces us to strengthen where we are weak.
Yes, we are artists, but art is a business. We need to learn the unfun stuff like accounting, budgeting, spreadsheets and hiring and firing. Being a writer is not a glittery unicorn hug.
Anyone can start a blog. Blogs are free. Follow some prompts. But sticking to it? Sticking to it when it seems no one is listening? That’s when we have time to see what works and what doesn’t. We learn. We grow. We develop character.
We Never See Rewards
We have to learn to ship. Artists ship. That was a wonderful lesson I learned in Seth Godin’s Linchpin. The world will never reward the half-finished book, the abandoned blog or the business we left to rot.
The first YEAR I blogged, I was lucky to have 50 visits a day and probably most of those were spam bots. But I kept pressing, kept learning and trying new things. I kept blogging even when it seemed that no one was listening. I knew that, even if no one ever listened, blogging was a great exercise in developing the character of a professional. It taught me to show up day after day after day even when there seemed no apparent reward.
What happened? One day my blog exploded in readership and went from 100 visits a day to 1000 and has grown steadily. But that took over TWO YEARS. And even though I travel all over the country speaking, and teach classes and run after a three-year-old while running a business and writing more books…I still blog.
We Lose Respect and Support
When I first wanted to be a writer, most of my family was not supportive AT ALL. Why? Because I was a flake. They’d been down this road before and been duped.
Others can only cheer for our new beginning so many times before we lose their trust. I wasn’t a finisher. I would start something and the second it was actual work, I was on to something new. In my family’s eyes? Why would writing be any different?
It took years to prove to them I was the horse worth betting on. Now? They are my greatest champions because they now realize I’ve grown up. I have earned support and respect by sticking to what I start.
Most of our peers want us to succeed. They, too, love being part of something new. But our job is to let them see the fruits of our dreams. If we keep darting off to something shinier, we lose the respect and support of people around us. Instead of being happy about our bold new adventure, they roll their eyes and make bets how long it will take us to quit.
And I am not judging any of you. I have been through this myself. When I write about enemies of the art, it is because I have battled these foes on the front lines, and I didn’t always win. We will always fight them. They will never go away. Right now, I am in the last leg of my new book, like 10,000 words from finishing. I have to fight the siren’s song of doing something new every moment of every day. So I get you. Really, I do.
Just remember, The world does not reward starters; it rewards finishers.
What are your thoughts? Do you have trouble focusing? How do you fight the siren song of the shiny?
Here’s some Eye of the Tiger. Just keep playing it and keep pressing!
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of February I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!