“Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.” — Neil Gaiman
I have these words written in black Sharpie on a Post-It note I taped to an external hard drive that sits on my desk. This note to myself has been there for long enough that I forget when I first taped it up. It sits there, ever the chill reminder, that my singular goal as a writer is to finish.
All other concerns come second to that one (for without the titular “Finish It,” no other concern need even put its boots on). Not money, not fame, not influence; nor even good storytelling. If the Creative Thing is never finished, it can never strive to be anything more.
The longer quote by Mr. Gaiman reads, “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”
Adventures in Storytelling, whatever it means to individual folks (and I hope it has meant something to you personally), has always been about two things to me: better storytelling and community. (Okay, it’s meant a lot more than just those two things; but those are the core.) Community is you, reading this, dreaming of your own book, script, play, song, etc.; better storytelling is about, well, telling better stories. Understanding story. Learning to fail spectacularly so that we may learn spectacularly.
I see now—9 months since my last post—that there was a third element important for me; a subtext, living between thoughts, huddling around the campfire keeping to itself, yet the expedition’s backer, founder, and ever-present source: finishing.
I am learning to finish what I start.
The first pieces of Charlotte’s Journey (working title) were penned and typed nearly two years ago. Though James and I have hiatus’D the heck out of the story lately, it has never left us. Of the ~40 cue cards representing story sections crafted between then and now, 24 sections (give or take some false starts, better ideas, and new stuff) have a first draft; 16 remain.
That’s less than half. Divided by two (a boon of co-writing!) and that’s eight sections per person.
Now, it’s writing, so a section may be as short as a punchline, as long as “The Fellowship crosses the bridge”, or can damn well fill a dozen+ pages, single-spaced. Our ideas always seem to expand in the telling, and I apparently prefer to fully reintroduce our heroes every time they are on screen… So who knows how long writing them will take.
That is not the point. The point is To Finish.
Thus, I am currently in my parent’s basement with a full bladder at 12 o’clock midnight on a Monday evening in February writing this PLAY post for you. For me. For James. For every wants to be / needs to be / will be writer out there.
This is about Finishing.
Tomorrow I will take the 30ish minute drive out James’ place, where the Wondrous Wiarton Writing Retreat will commence. Charlotte, Raul, Blue and the gang will sit up, shake off the cobwebs, (get reintroduced yet again because why break a streak), pick up the Sword, and march once more unto the fray. For six days, we will eat, sleep, Geek—and write.
My goal: finish the first draft of Charlotte’s Journey.
We may not quite make it to the finish line but we will make a dent worthy of a bard’s ballad. Because the point is about doing what needs to be done to finish it. This is only a first draft, after all, and there will be many more stages after that. But without all those words lined up on the page ready to be read, cut, moved, killed, and (the lucky few) left alone—there can be no next stage; there can be no end. And I want an end.
(Just to the story—not Adventures in Storytelling. I have lots of big dreams for that…)
So join us if you can, whether in moral support or as a fellow creative warrior on the front line of your own project. I’ll be dropping daily reflective updates, to share how the day’s writing went. Follow along and drop an always welcome and appreciated, “You can do it!” when you can.
Because I can do it. James can do it.
You can do it.
We can all do it.
For whatever your It may be: we can Finish It.