We like new things, us writers. New pens. New notebooks. New books. Even new WIPs (work in progress). If anything, we love new WIPs most of all. Well… some of us do, anyway.

Think of a new story idea like that of a new romance. It’s invigorating. Enticing. Exciting. We stare dreamily into the distance, thinking about this new person we’re seeing and how they make us feel so alive. Eventually, though, we come to the realization that if we want to take this story somewhere, we’re going to have to put work in. Sure, sometimes that work is fun, but it doesn’t quite match the same giddiness that one finds in that first stretch of time in that new relationship. Many writers find that exhilaration of new projects too enticing to pass up, eventually growing their list of unfinished projects to an unsustainable level.

Welcome to my world.

For much of my writing life, I have been one that is lured by the temptress of new projects and ideas, rather than pushing through a project until the end. While I can argue that I have a lot of overall production, the production in many ways is too scattered to be truly meaningful. This ranges from the works that are no more than a few chapters in, short stories half finished, to a myriad of books that are awaiting the dreaded cycles of revisions.

To take a project to its conclusion takes work. Perseverance. Often it is grueling and seemingly unable to match the joy that is found in the beginning.

I like the analogy to relationships here, as I’ve known many people who fall into the trap of being enamored with the romantic excitement of the new relationship. Falling in love is thrilling, not unlike starting a new project. There’s just so much possibility there. After some time, the relationship evolves — again, as does a writing project — and one finds that more effort is needed. Things take work, and sometimes it isn’t fun.

Now, with relationships, it really takes two people, so my analogy falls flat on its face there. Both people need to be invested in working to hold the relationship together, otherwise it will falter. It’s complicated, and I am not an expert in relationships, so let’s move back to what it means to writing.

The boundless possibilities of storytelling, of writing, start to constrict as one writes. Rules flex, characters begin to assert their personalities, and the plot further narrows things. It was fun thinking all these things, playing with ideas, but once the plan is settled, suddenly, the real work begins.

But that real work can be fulfilling. More so than simply coming up with ideas. That is the thing we often miss and why we get stuck chasing the dragons of the next project.

The playful glee associated with that new work will always wane. It is short-lived. It’s supposed to be. But yet we expect it to last (or maybe hope is a better way to describe it). When we start that new project, we effectively believe that the excitement will carry right through to completion. When it doesn’t, we refuse to accept and learn from it. Instead, we push it aside, thinking that somehow all the creativity that was there in the beginning disappeared — meaning that it is time to look for something else to keep the creative juices flowing.

That is not true, however. One thing I learned that drives this behavior (at least for me) is distraction. I likely have ADHD. Or whatever the spooks up in the APA are diagnosing it as — as though it is a disorder rather than one of many functional adaptations to life. That’s another topic. Anyway, if I get stressed or confused or frustrated, my mind starts looking elsewhere to offload. I can, like most ADHD-type people, hyper focus on things — to the point where it’s like the rest of the world disappears. However, that hyper focus can’t crest over some level of the things I mentioned above, otherwise our focus will be broken and we’ll pop off elsewhere.

In my writing, if I suddenly am having some trouble with a character or plot movement, it will pop me out of focus. It’s why “new” projects become so enticing and why they eventually fall off. Because if I can’t keep up that excited, easy surge of writing as what happens at the start of a new project, then POW! it goes to hell. Honestly, sometimes I can muscle through it, disciplining myself to remain locked in the project. Too often though, I just let the project fall to the side.

Now, all this is a very long-winded way to explain what is going on here with me: I’ve decided to do some spring cleaning on my writing. This means that many of these projects — be it short stories, novels, novellas, and all, where I dropped off somewhere in the project to go chase after something productivity and such — will be my focus for a bit. Already, I finished off 3 short stories I had just hanging out on my unfinished WIP list. I am also going to go through others and decide whether I will dump the story or finish them off.

Then there’s all the projects that have 1st drafts done, but since revisions and editing stresses me out, I have trouble keeping my attention on following through with finishing them. My work will be to learn to keep on them through to completion. If new writing suffers some, then that is what needs to happen as I work through all this.

Each of these skills are things I need if I am to forge a career of some capacity from my writing. New Year’s Resolutions? Of course it is. This needs to be treated like a professional gig, meaning that sometimes there are going to be jobs that I am not quite feeling the romantic glee from a new project and will have to buckle down to complete a project. It must be learned. This is a good way to start.

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