Every year I write about finishing around the middle/end of October.
It’s not because I have some big grand secret of productivity I want to share with you (I don’t), but because yours truly needs the pep/kick-in-the-pants talk.
As I edit this article, I’m sitting in an airport after a few weeks of nonstop travel. Due to an unexpected snowstorm in Denver, I’m schlepping around more luggage than I started with.
Side note: I really thought it was going to an inch of snow and then sun, like when I visited let’s-snow-and-then-turn-to-70-degrees a few weeks back.
No. It was a foot of snow. For a few days.
Magical, but cold.
It’s tempting to get home and get buried in a Christmas novel, bake an apple pie and organize the closet and let my projects wait until after the holidays.
Maybe it’s just me.
After all, we’re entering the season of perpetual distraction. It’s my favorite time of the year, but also the time when I’m tempted to stop working on the most important things.
The Fun of Starting and the Angst of Finishing
Maybe a few other people need the pep talk too: finish a few things.
There are lots of articles, books and podcasts on how to start.
I love starting. Starting is amazing.
There is an intense energy with starting.
Starting a new magazine, project, book, recipe. Even the harder stuff has a novelty to it when we’re starting.
That’s a whole different feeling.
Getting to the point of finishing takes more effort, focus and perseverance. Though the thrill of finishing is better than the start, it’s easy to forget that when we’re slogging it out.
Plus, there’s not a lot of ways to make it less work or less of a pain. Finishing stuff, even the creative stuff we enjoy, wears us out.
Typically I find the last 10% of a book is the hardest to write. It’s not the ending that necessarily gives me a headache. It’s the bridge from where I am to the ending of where I want to be.
But there may not be anything more personally satisfying in our creative work (besides the joy of when it resonates with others) than when we finish.
I know this from personal experience.
Because we grow in competence, confidence and momentum.
First, we become more competent when we see things through the end. Learning is achieved by doing. The more we do, the more we learn and the better we get.
Getting better becomes inevitable.
The likelihood that we’ll stay at the same level in our painting or sketching the more we do it is pretty slim. We may go through periods of plateau’s, but we won’t stagnate.
Second, the more we finish, the more confidence quietly grows.
Confidence grows often unseen, like the root system beneath an oak tree.
There’s a lot of interesting theories about how to become confident. I don’t know if thinking or saying confident things actually increases our confident quotient!
But there is a quiet, solid, rooted confidence that comes when we see things through the end.
Why do we become more confident as we finish things? I’m not sure, but I have some ideas which I will probably write about in a future blog post. What I do know is that my temperament is pretty anti-confident Confidence grows because I show up, do the thing, learn from mistakes, and keep doing it.
The whole confidence things is kind of a mystery to me, but trust me, you’ll believe it when you see it in your own life.
Third, finishing projects builds momentum. It may not be a quick momentum, but it’s momentum nonetheless, ‘the impetus gained by a moving object’ (Merrium Webster dictionary). If we never finish projects, picking up speed and growing our roots of confidence and competence never happens.
As of this writing, we have two months left in the year.
There are two months left to finish some things.
Since The Creative Season is a business dedicated to encouraging, inspiring and teaching women to develop their creative skills, I’m going to challenge you to finish a few – one or two – creative projects this year.
If you will commit to finishing your projects, you will experience more than simply the satisfaction of a completed project.
In a newsletter to The Creative Season subscribers, I wrote about nineteen ways to finish the year well.
None of them is mind-blowing. All of them are practical, simple (not necessarily easy) things you can do to finish a few projects this year and finish your year well.
IF you’d like a copy of the whole list, subscribe to the newsletter! I’d love to have you (you can add your email at the bottom of this post. There’s a weekly newsletter plus you’ll be the first to know about art releases, courses and videos just for TCS subscribers!
Here’s how to finish the year well:
- Brainstorm all the things you’d like to finish. Don’t limit this to simply creative things because your brain will be volunteering ALL the things. Write them all down.
- Go ahead and put at least three of the things on your 2020 to-do list. It’s only a few weeks away anyway.
- Now identify what would really be a sweet success for you to complete before the end of this year. Think about how you will No one can identify this but you. (Note: your goal should be a bit of a stretch, but attainable).
Now that we know what we’re going to finish, create a plan for how we’re going to do it:
- Identify a set time that will be your ‘finishing time.’ It doesn’t matter to me if that means getting up earlier and working on it for 45 minutes three times a week or setting aside Friday evening for creative work each week. Look for times where you can work in the crevices, like times when you’d normally go to the phone or binging on your favorite time or waiting in an airport.
- Schedule your creative project time to your calendars: digital and physical (with alerts) to remind you. Treat this as just as important as going to the doctor or meeting with your boss.
- Write down (physically, not digitally) a finish by date. “Finish XXXXX by December 19th.” Put a big square by the date. Then put the piece of paper when somewhere you will see it often.
Okay, here’s the big one where all of us with starting tendencies start to groan….
- DON’T START ANY NEW PROJECTS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR.
I know. I know. It hurts.
But we gotta finish something first. Then we get started on something again.
Finish the painting, the scrapbook, the scarves, the mosaic, the first draft of the manuscript, the dried floral projects, the sweater, the candles collection, etc.
There will be times you don’t want to. When that happens, use your phone a friend card and reach out to your buddy.
- Arrange a “phone a friend” option. Ask a friend if they will keep you accountable for finishing your project. Ask them for gentle encouragement you’re feeling stuck or feel like quitting.
- Print out (or save to your computer) the 19 ways to keep you focused on finishing this year. Enter your email and it will be in your inbox in seconds.
I can bury myself in all of the holiday activity and put off everything until January. But I’ll be bummed when I get past Christmas and realize I could’ve completed a few things.
In the short story, Juliet’s School of Possibilities, Laura Vanderkam outlines a group of phrases I wrote down and frequently keep in my pocket.
Expectations are infinite.
Time is finite.
You are always choosing.
There is time.
Time to finish the things AND celebrate.
Plan to celebrate the completion.
How? First off, tell me about it. I would really like to know. Email me at melissa@thecreative season.com
p.s. Interested in a bit of audio on the importance of finishing? Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and many other books gave a rare interview on EntreLeadership. He talked about the importance (and difficulty) of finishing. It’s a great interview. Listen to it hear or search for EntreLeadership, episode#345 on your favorite podcast player.