Oh, the dreaded ‘F’ word. ‘Finish’, along with ‘focus’ and ‘follow through’ are words that make creative types cringe.
Focus? Why? Living in the land of possibility is so much fun! I have so many great ideas, it’s really impossible to focus on only one.
Follow through? Groan. It’s much easier to entertain new and energizing ideas! I can’t get organized enough to follow through on project ideas.
Finish? Death! If I finish something, then I have to face the reality of whether it’s any good or not – will anyone want my work?
If you’re familiar with these obstacles to completing projects, you’re probably less familiar with the boons on the other side of the finish line. Deep satisfaction, pride, recognition, and yes, possibly cash money await you if you can bring your creative baby to completion.
Quit being a cringer and become a finisher. Here are the five essential steps to carry your brilliant ideas all the way home.
One: Identify Your Motivation
Start becoming a great finisher by doing some soul-searching. In a notebook or computer file, write out an answer to this question:
What is important about becoming someone who finishes?
Understanding your unique motivation for staying through the entire process is an essential piece of the puzzle. Get clear on what’s important about finishing. You may come back and add more as your motivation becomes more apparent to you.
Craft that motivation into one sentence that you keep nearby when you’re creating. A single affirmation or reminder of your commitment can do a lot toward achieving the finishing line. Develop your own version of the Little Red Engine’s mantra: “I think I can, I think I can!”
Two: Commit to a Project
You most likely have a number of projects in various stages of completion. These ideas marinate in your mind, spoiling as you become overwhelmed and distracted by your creative inspiration. It becomes easier to let them fall to the side rather than make choices to commit to one project after another.
When you decide to be a completer, you need to choose where you will focus your time and energy. You will be tempted to work on several projects at once. This is fine, if you manage to follow through and finish at least some of them. (I don’t recommend this until you can call yourself a serial finisher.)
Three: Build Structure
External structures help you stay organized and focused. You will need to learn what works for you, but you’ll have to commit to structures like deadlines, timelines and accountability. Your inner saboteur will pipe in with notions like “I’m not a deadline person,” or “Lists don’t work for me.”
Take this as normal resistance that surfaces when you try something different. Sometimes creative people think they need to be free and flexible, but the truth is that structure allows creativity to flow. Creative people actually like structure, for it gives them the needed focus to bring their ideas into form.
Four: Stay on Track
Getting clear on your motivation, committing to a project and developing a plan of action are the first three crucial steps. Staying with your project to completion is critical to becoming a completer. As Molly Ivins wrote, you need to “dance with them that brought you.”
Don’t flirt with your other ideas once you’ve committed to go all the way with one. You’ll need to develop your creative stamina, hone your emotional intelligence, and stay connected to all the previous reminders about why you’re doing your project and what’s your payoff for finishing.
Five: Acknowledge and Celebrate Completion
This final step is often overlooked. After all that work, we skip the fun part! But it’s important to put this into the creative cycle. Too often, we rush to the next thing, overriding the need to acknowledge our efforts.
Before you pop the cork on the champagne bottle, take some time to acknowledge what it took to get here. Take the opportunity to learn about your creative style and what it takes to bring your projects to fruition. Acknowledging and celebrating will help you build confidence to complete future projects.
Most of us want to finish. The work required to finish is nothing compared to the real cringer when we think about all those once-wonderful projects that are now abandoned on the back burner, hidden in the bottom drawer, or lurking on the garage shelf, gathering dust and silently mocking us and our supposedly brilliant ideas.
Knowing the five steps is one thing. Taking them is another. Do yourself a favor: stop cringing and start finishing.
Soon, I’ll be launching a new coaching group to help writers finish their books. I’ve been doing this work one-one with my clients, and I can’t wait to help more people jubilantly cross the finish line of their fiction or non-fiction books. Stay tuned…