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Cathy: Facing things

I’ve really appreciated being a part of this community. I’ve gained confidence in areas I neglected for a long time. I got back in touch with my own creativity in a variety of ways, the biggest of which was returning to a long ago manuscript that I had back-burnered along with many other projects. I’m great at starting things.

However, I think I’m at a point where I’ve hit a freeze. I wasn’t sure why for quite some time, but I think I finally figured it out. I’m near the end. I’m not great at finishing things. I don’t really understand why I have this historic block on finishing things, but I do. I’ve worked in education for many years, but without a degree in it. I started my MEd, but barely, many years ago now. K was a toddler, now he’s a teen. I can say this or that got in the way, but then I think about writing papers in college, or even my thesis, or art projects, or that silly modeling stint I wasted 600 bucks getting together a portfolio then dropped just as suddenly. And I realize, I really have an issue with sticking it out to the end. I rarely stay in one employ for more than a few years at a time, even if I’ve stayed in the same field. I seem to keep starting over.

Now, I’m at the end of my novel, and I still have some research, etc to do for the middle, but I’m really at the point where I’m tying up the loose ends, and I’ve hit a wall. A big wall made of concrete with a tangle of rebar throughout. I have all the advice I can give to anyone else, however, all my advice isn’t doing a darn bit of good for me. I keep hearing myself repeat that I know where I’m going, I know how to get there, but the writing just isn’t happening.

I don’t think pushing my self-imposed deadline out a little farther is going to help me. That just tells me, I still am not writing whether I give myself another couple of weeks or a month to do it. I’m. Not. Writing. The. Manuscript. Now. I wasn’t writing it yesterday. Or, well, you get the idea.

I really hope as in 12 step groups, that the first step toward solving a problem is admitting I have one. OK, I’ve covered that, now where’s my 12 step group for writers who can’t finish?

Hi, my name is Cathy…

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. I used to be part of that club too, and I struggled horribly with the ending to Home Improvement. I knew exactly what the final scene would be, but could not for the life of me bridge the point where I was at to that point in the story.

    What worked for me was putting my character in a suitably wacky situation that propelled her straight to the ending. I realized that I was missing a piece of the puzzle and that was what prevented me from moving forward. But another part of me didn’t want to finish either. People who don’t like to finish things, don’t finish things on purpose sometimes. It’s easier to perpetually write that MS because after you finish it, you have to start the ulcer-inducing process of getting it published.

    My suggestion to you is to look carefully at your plot to be sure there are no missing pieces. Then set your egg timer (or whatever else is handy) for 10-20 minutes, plant yourself in a chair and force yourself to plow through, in small chunks of time, until the end.

    My motto the whole time I was writng my ending was “plug and chug, baby!” It felt very forced. I ended up re-writing the ending twice, but since I had something to work with, I finally got there.

    Good luck!

    January 27, 2009
  2. E-J #

    I like Brittany’s “plug and chug” approach! Small chunks of time is definitely the way to go forward, so that without actually pushing yourself, you are keeping things ticking over. Can you put aside your critical faculties for a while and allow yourself to write something badly – without thought of revising it just yet? Having something, anything, down, however much it isn’t what you hoped it might be, will be an encouragement to shape it or completely rework it in time, whereas while there is nothing yet there to rework, the finish-phobic part of you will keep that void in front of you as an excuse – “there’s no way forward, no bridge, I’m not taking another step”. Hmm, having re-read your post I see that effectively you are AT this stage already … Is there some systematic way you can record what various loose ends you have and points to be researched, and tackle the task strictly on a going-down-the-list basis? Sometimes when I’m stalling on something, what I need is a very straightforward list of instructions to follow, leaving less time for procrastination-inducing thoughts. Let the notepad tell you exactly what your next action is to be.

    Incidentally, I am a fellow non-finisher with a string of never-completed projects to my name. I have an adult teaching certificate, but only got partway to my full qualification because, despite already holding down a teaching position (and thus, you would think, perfectly competent to complete the Cert Ed) I went into a depression. I think it definitely has to do with fear of what lies beyond the thing you’re avoiding.

    I can’t offer you much advice, Cathy, but I do hope you get past this you phase with your novel. You did, after all, return to it … I think it really wants to be finished. 🙂

    January 27, 2009
  3. cathy #

    thanks, brittany and e-j, these all all very helpful, and here’s the but: i’ve done or am doing all of the above, but just can’t physically write the next line. it’s all there in my head.

    e-j is right, i think there is the fear of the future happening here. dreaming is easy, footwork is hard. is it sellable or do i suck? if i do sell it, i will have to promote it. i used to do a lot of public poetry readings for many years then stopped partly because of kids, but mostly because i hate self-promotion. i hate watching others sell themselves. i believe for me there is an underlying fear of success, too. beats me as to why, well not really, but i don’t really want to go into my mother issues here! i thought i already dealt with that! i guess i have more work to do in that area….

    ok, now that recognition is there, i just need to deal with sick kick, baby, school day off, etc adn, you’re right, go nike on it and just do it.

    January 27, 2009
  4. cathy #

    oops, sick kid not kick.

    January 27, 2009
  5. Cathy, this is such a hard place to be. Try not to think so much about the future, though. Don’t even think about getting the book done. Just think of it as transcribing what is in your head to the paper. Thinking far into the future–promotion, etc.–can be paralyzing.

    You absolutely need to go nike. You can do it! You can do it!

    January 27, 2009
  6. cathy #

    thanks, kate, i like that live in the moment reminder. that may actually be effective right now,applied to the writing.

    January 27, 2009
  7. Liz #

    I have been writing this children’s book for awhile now. Many of the little couplets have been written and any one that hasn’t has been outlined. This means that ALL I have to do is sit down, polish the ones that are done and come up with a cute rhyme for any one that is just stated. That’s all. This book, too, has a definite beginning, middle and end.

    I gave myself January. I think I worked a total of four hours on it the entire month. Instead, I did some research on how we’ll be promoting it (we are going to self-publish, since most houses are not looking for a writer/illustrator team, they only want one or the other) which actually might be easy because it is a very specific theme (peanut allergy). I have been surfing print-on-demand publishers and looking for blogs about parenting kids w/ allergies and places where we could donate 10% of our profit. I have been thinking about how to get it into a library & local bookstores.

    Well, that’s just great, but it doesn’t do me a d*mn bit of good if I don’t have a book, now, does it?

    So what do you say we stop being depressed about our lack of motivation & get angry instead? How about a little friendly competition between any of us who need to finish a mostly-completed story (cough, Brittany – you too). What if we do a creative construction FINISH-A-THON? Kind of like NaNo, but just to finish any open-ended project within a month? The goal would be to have a quasi-polished draft. Sure, it might need to be submitted for a critique or to an editor… but it’ll be DONE. And we can all move on from this state, so that we can go and get all mooney-eyed over the next big inspiration… ideas? anybody?

    January 27, 2009
  8. cathy #

    liz, i went out to change my laundry loads and came back to the above and you scared the s*** out of me!

    i think that may be just what i need. an outsider’s deadline. that was the only way i finished my mucho extended thesis! i need to be scared a bit, or challenged…

    for quite some time, miranda and i were making writing dates generally for 10am-noon eastern on wednesdays. that kept me more in the groove. i’ve tried keeping it up on my own when miranda has other stuff going on – like moving or client stuff, but it just doesn’t work as well as knowing someone is in the thick of it with you. do we want to commit to some regular ‘meeting’ too? check in via email to say, ok i’m getting started, how about you? internet writing dates work for moms of youngins cause the end time isn’t as succinct as the start time. once i get started, i can usually peck throughout the day even with interferences.

    January 27, 2009
  9. cathy #

    btw, everyone, i really appreciate all of you putting so much time, care and consideration into your responses of my dilemma!

    January 27, 2009
  10. hi all. i don’t think i can add anything at least point other than to agree with a couple points made. cathy, my first thought before reading any of the comments was not that you can’t finish; it was that you are scared to finish because of what might come next….and boom, there you admitted it already! i think liz’s competition idea is a great one.

    and i also agree with cathy’s opening line. “I’ve really appreciated being a part of this community.” i concur! you all truly are a blessing.

    January 27, 2009
  11. and i’ll admit to having a blonde moment and wondering what the heck “go nike” means. but i have figured it out now. i’m happy to be your cheerleader! go nike!! 🙂

    January 27, 2009
  12. cathy #

    lol! and you’re the sport fan among us! i can’t think of just do it w/o nike popping into my head.

    i figured you’d figure it out. i have got to get past myself!

    January 27, 2009
  13. I second that, Cathy. Liz, you scared the s*** out of me too! What do you mean (cough Brittany-you too!)? LOL! I just want a blasted idea–not a deadline!

    But panicked whining aside, yes, I think a finish-a-thon (start-a-thon in my case) is a fantastic idea and I would be game.

    Maybe we should have a five minute warm up writing prompt. I hate them, because I struggle to write on demand, but it might help get the juices flowing.

    January 27, 2009

    January 27, 2009
  15. Liz #

    ha ha – Brittany, I only coughed your way, because I read your last post to mean your Jillian story was already planned out Beginning middle & end, but you’re ditching it for a challenging new story. I thought maybe you were not finishing something … but… turns out you haven’t written it yet! HA – Sorry!

    Cathy – didn’t mean to ruin your underpants, but if you’re like me, you’ve given up and resigned yourself to only wearing ugly ones anyway. Nothing a hot wash cycle can’t fix.

    Maybe we would like to spend the end of this week inviting anyone who has a story that is unfinished to finish in Feb? Maybe whoever comments can leave their story info as well, so we all know what our goals are. Also, a page count or word count, too, so that we can say “you need to re-write so many words/pages a day/week to make your quota.” On Jan 31 (Saturday) we can do the math and commit to specific dates for an email conference, either on CC or just personally, where we crack the whip on each other – er – I mean, encourage and support each other!

    Anyone want to put up a post? I’m not signed up to do so (but one of these days I will….)

    January 27, 2009
  16. cathy #

    omigod, look what’s happening….miranda has all our emails. whoever wants in and is savvier than i should do the post, and somehow include all our emails to say ok, i’m in at such n such time, day, etc. i post these blogs by emailing to the resident email for the site a la miranda. me no tech savvy.

    as for writing prompts, i hate to say my comments here there and everywhere have supposed to been (terrible, terrible verbage!) to get my get the juices flowing prompts, daily! guess it’s not working so well.

    also, liz, i went looking for you on fb the other day, came up empty. so many of the rest of us are there, start adding friends…or will this be a new can of worms for you?

    as for brittany, i say this might be a good way to get what you know you have ‘down’ actually down – jillian preg, i mean. like kelly says, accomplish then challenge or have 2 undones. i have 2 old projects knocking at the back of my brain that want out of the closet. make that 3, 4. i can name them all: another former great american novel morphing into youth novel dealing with race issues in the midst of boston bussing riots; a screenplay bad relationship triumph; a funny alphabet book that’s well past g and then some; and a suburban soap opera detailing the lives of the families of 3 best friends, 2 of whom are sisters.

    January 27, 2009
  17. cathy #

    ok, i’ll write the post, NOW for the open invitation and bop it over to miranda for posting.

    January 27, 2009
  18. Liz #

    cathy – I am going to be setting up a facebook page soon. I know, I’m the last one on earth who isn’t on there. At first I was leery, because i knew some c-r-a-z-y people in High school that I’d rather not rekindle with but have decided what the hay. Now my husband has added the “no exes” clause, I think i may go for it. ha ha my bf & my SIL have been bugging me about it for ages.

    January 27, 2009
  19. cathy #

    great, liz…and you can block the crazies when they try to contact you!

    January 27, 2009
  20. Oh pooie on the no exes clause. I’m up to my eyeballs in exes on facebook! It’s so nice to eavesdrop on their lives and think “There but for the grace of God go I…”LOL

    January 27, 2009
  21. cathy #

    i’m with brittany on that one. i tell my dh, ‘now that one and i…’ he says ew, i don’t want to hear it. yet, he’s fb’ing all these old college chickas with nondisclosure statements. i’ve already heard the stories, now i have to put the faces to them….lol!

    January 27, 2009
  22. Kristine #

    Oh, Cathy. I can relate to SO much in your post. I have the same fear of “closure” with my writing. I love writing beginnings. Once I get to end, I rethink everything and usually end up going make to my outline to make a major change, thus starting back at the beginning again. It’s a vicious cycle. Probably why I’m still in the same place writing-wise that I was last year.

    I just need to finish this dang manuscript and be done with it for nothing else but my own sanity.

    Having said that, I really need to join this new group. Count me in, please!

    I also need to get on Facebook since I’ve been hearing so much about it. Is it really what it’s all cracked up to be?

    January 27, 2009
  23. cathy #

    welcome to come along kristine! maybe we’ll all actually finish something!

    as for facebook: good side, it’s fun, it’s an easy way to connect with people you may have been wondering about for years – bad side, it’s a neverending black hole of distraction.

    January 27, 2009

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  1. Open Call to Creative Action: February Finish-a-thon! « Creative Construction: Life & Art

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