As of this moment I have dozens of drafts saved on my hard drive. Drafts of articles, drafts of essays, drafts of book chapters, even the draft of a novel. Hopefully this sounds familiar. It’s the life of a writer, right? We draft and revise, draft and revise, and revise some more, and then finally submit. But what I’ve learned in the past few years and what has propelled me forward professionally more than anything else has been this: I must be committed to completing my work.
When I changed my writing to make a habit of completing (and submitting) one piece each week, I saw more of my writing published. Each completed article or chapter became a part of my body of work. And as that body grew, so did my command of the craft. And so did my writing confidence.
Disciplining myself to complete my writing required learning my own quirks as a writer. I learned I prefer to leave a few days (and sometimes weeks) between drafting and revising. Coming back to the work with fresh eyes makes my revising proceed much more smoothly. Drafts, on the other hand, I approach with fervor and speed – “get it out and let it stew” is my motto.
Recognizing these quirks has led to a process in which each week I work on multiple projects at different stages. One day I might draft a new article. The same day or the following, I revise another. I strive to complete final edits on one project each week. It doesn’t always happen. Occasionally an article or essay will linger in my files longer, or my writing may stall on one project. But since I’m always sifting and sorting and looking for work that is ready to complete, I know I’ll be back to it again. And because I’m moving other work through my writing pipeline, I can be confident a completed piece will soon emerge.My process succeeds because of my commitment to regularly finishing my work.
What’s so powerful about being committed to completion? When we focus on completing project after project we invest in ourselves as writers. Letting go of our work and calling it “done” gets us beyond our fears. It allows us to send our work into the world, where it can do its work on readers.
I went to a writers’ workshop 2 years ago (the first ever I’d attended), and one of the leader’s comments stayed with me: she said nothing we write is ever wasted “unless we don’t finish it.” I was surprised and a bit humbled by that because I had/have several unfinished stories that I enjoyed writing at the time but didn’t really have the discipline to carry through to their finished state. I had enjoyed the process of writing them and the revisions I did on them, so wasn’t that enough? The workshop leader, in her gentle way, reminded me that there was more to it. Since then I have made more of an effort to push past the “wall” and complete these pieces. I really like your point about completion being an investment in ourselves as writers. Thank you for another little boost of inspiration!
Love it, Lara! Well said.
love this. there is such power in simplicity. As my mentor once told me the writer is the one completing the writing, not just talking about it. Sometimes the hardest part is taking all the glitter that is swirling in your head and funneling it toward the paper. And then sprinkling it out to let it land its magic:)