I’m a starter-finisher. I read one book until I finish, then I start the next. I knit one thing until I’m finished and then I start the next. I even get twitchy when I visit people’s houses and see multiple opened shower gels and shampoos in their bathrooms.
But then, I started writing. At first, it wasn’t so bad. I wrote short, themed pieces with a fixed word count for the first Saturday of the month when I met my writing group. Then I started branching out. I did NaNoWriMo in 2018 with no preparation and churned out 50,000 words compromising of two stories with the same theme and different characters. I stopped one and started another 18,000 words in as it wasn’t going anywhere, and I HAD to finish the challenge. Unfortunately, this behemoth of a first draft, whilst having great parts, was so messy, rushed and incoherent, that it would need drastic re-writing in order to get it to a semblance of a novel. It was also about 50,000 words too short. I battled with it for months. Adding scenes, fleshing things out, making huge to do lists and writing character profiles.
Then, I stopped writing. It was too much, I wasn’t passionate enough about the subject matter and I missed having the challenge of writing short pieces.
So, I shelved it, and embarked on a series of short stories. Some were re-edited old pieces, some new creations. But, I never actually finished any of them. I even submitted a couple to short story competitions. I got feedback on both, which meant that they were still not finished. I got to a point where I just got bored of each piece.
How do you know when a piece of writing is finished? It’s easy when you’re knitting or reading a book or even using shampoo, but writing? You could carry on working on each piece forever. Tweaking it, getting feedback and changing it, getting more feedback and switching it back. If you re-read it a few months later, you start messing with it again. Sometimes you forget what you were actually trying to say in the first place.
It’s a starter-finisher’s nightmare.
So, I decided to go back to novels. I started writing one, planned out another and decided a short story would actually be better suited as a novel, so started writing that. All of these are abandoned collecting digital dust on my hard drive.
I decided what I really needed to do, was start a blog. Full of enthusiasm, I published my first blog post. Then I started another. But… it’s more of an essay, and I wasn’t sure how to structure it, so emailed a friend to ask for advice. I tinkered around with it, doubting whether it said what I wanted it to say. I waited for my friend to email back. Used that as an excuse to not finish it. Time drifted on and I realised I needed to post something, anything. So here it is. A finished piece of writing. My first in a long time.
I know it’s a chronic lack of confidence that’s to blame. Crippling self-doubt seems to be a writer’s cross to bear. The weekly emails I get from the wonderful Writers HQ continually remind me that I’m not alone. I’m working on increasing my confidence in small ways, unseen from the outside. I’m challenging my anxious self to do things out of my comfort zone. I phoned and booked a table at a pub, I emailed back immediately to a colleague, I spoke up in a meeting. None of these actions are particularly extraordinary, but for me, they are micro steps in the right direction. Now I need to start work on my writing.
I’ve decided I need to try and focus on one thing, get it finished and send it off. That’s it. I’ve got a couple of pieces with great feedback that are on the brink of being finished and ‘enough’. Now I’ve got this blog, I’ve put it ‘out there’. I’m going to be accountable, and finish what I’ve started. One word at a time.