The Most Important Part of Art: Finishing

One of my favorite genre authors, Chuck Wendig, talks a lot about writing and art on his blog, Terrible  Minds. One of his cardinal rules of art-ing is Finish Your Shit.

So simple. And so, so hard.

I’ve been in what I’ve thought of as the final editing phase of my manuscript since February. I thought I’d whip through it and shoot it out to some beta readers for feedback my March, April at the latest. And now it’s practically May. And I’ve got about a third of my manuscript to scrub and polish yet.

Sigh.

I’m itching to just get it out the door already. And other ideas are calling to me.  It’s tempting to skip a step or two, or simply stop where i am and call it finished.

That’s the thing about art though, isn’t it? Finishing is even harder than starting … and starting is often a trick in itself. And yet finishing is critical. If we don’t finish—and finish right—all that effort goes to nothing. We don’t have anything to show for the work, we don’t have anything to publish, we don’t grow.

Finishing is where art separates the hobbyists from the pros. The pros stick it out and do it right. Hobbyists, the ones who are just in it for the fun and don’t care about growing their skills or sharing their work with the world (nothing wrong with that) drop it and move on to something else.

In a way, I like that finishing is so hard. Isn’t there enough competing noise out there as it is? Anyone can come up with a spark of an idea. Anyone can start. Various surveys have shown that a majority of people believe they have a story in them. But most never get those stories published. Because the idea isn’t what makes you an artist. What makes you an artist is seeing it through.

Inspiration only gets you so far. Don’t rely on it and don’t trust it. It can feel necessary, but the truth is your creativity is always there, even when the spark isn’t.

Good art makes you earn it. 

How do you stick out your projects to the end?

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10 thoughts on “The Most Important Part of Art: Finishing

  1. I finished my shit just last Thursday- a manuscript that had been torturing me for 7 years! I got through the last round of revisions by starting to plot just a bit of the next ms I’m going to be writing. Eventually it got so exciting that I HAD to finish the one I was already working on. Good luck with that W-I-P. You can do it!!!

  2. Sigh. This is just the kick in the pants I needed today. I was searching through my short stories, looking for one to edit and send out this week. I chose the one that was calling to me the loudest, but when I reached the second page I gave up on it because figuring out how to do the rewrite was “too hard.” I might as well pick a different (easier) story, right??? WRONG! I have to keep reminding myself that I AM NOT A HOBBYIST when it comes to writing. Hard is part of the job description. Thanks for writing this!

  3. I’m SO glad you wrote this Emily – I’m in exactly the same spot as you and was thinking it was just me being a perfectionist. I’ve also thought that maybe I should just wrap the novel up, push it out as is and move on. But I know it’s not ready yet. And your post was perfectly timed to remind me that I’m doing the right thing and patience is required. I needed this post today, thank you!

  4. Oh, Emily, have you been reading my mind? Sometimes I just want to be done with it, already. But i have to remind myself that I want to create good word of mouth about my writing. That means sticking with it until it’s right. And it means finishing, since there can be no word of mouth about my words until someone has a chance to read them. Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement to keep on going.

  5. I’m in a similar position. Thought i’d be finished January, then an editor made an astute observation which required a reasonably major fix. Now I’m in my final read though. But I completely agree that unless you finish correctly it is all for nought. So I keep telling myself that the work is good, the work is worth it…and I will finish when it’s finished. That said, at some point you do have to et it go and not overwork or overegg it. whoever said a writers life was easy needs shooting. Thanks for the post , and happy to find you ( saw your blog in Write to done on theme. -good post.

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