Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Finish a Writing Project

It's certainly not easy to complete a writing project, is it? Hey, it's not even easy to start a writing project.

First of all, anybody who has ever had to complete a writing project will tell you that one never notices how many household chores one has allowed to stack up until there is an important writing assignment to do. Then, suddenly, nothing is more important than cleaning out the keypad of the computer with a Q-tip, reorganizing all of the books in the living room according to color, dusting all of the overhead fan blades, vacuuming all of the dust out of the fan intake in the bathroom, making sure that every single water spot is off of all the faucets in the house, going through all of the kitchen cabinets to see what's there, making a pile of things to donate to Goodwill, going through stacks of old bills dating back to 2003, looking through all of one's photo albums on Facebook, re-reading middle school diary entries, etc.

Eventually, however, the writing task can no longer be avoided. It's time to sit down at the keyboard and write.

How to Finish a Writing Project:

1. Be sure that you've waited until the last possible moment. I'm not sure why this is a requirement, but it seems to have held true for every single writing project that I've worked on. Unless I've waited until the last possible moment, I absolutely cannot get any momentum going. Oh, I try. Weeks before a deadline, I sit down at my computer and go so far as opening a document and saving it under a new and spiffy-sounding title. But that's about as far as I get until the last possible moment.

2. Start panicking. The good thing about a panic is that it generally comes with a surge of adrenaline, which you can put to your advantage by typing out everything as fast as possible. Under the inspiration of panic, you will find that you are suddenly able to write as you have never written before. And some of it will even make sense later! Just remember: once the panic sets in, it's very important not to get up from the keyboard, even if you are suddenly overcome with the desire to go and clean out all of the Tupperware containers at the very back of the fridge.

3. Resist the urge to delete the entire project halfway through because you've become convinced that it's utterly horrifying. Somewhere between the halfway and three-quarter mark of any writing project I've ever completed, I become convinced that what I've written is the most ridiculously inane collection of banalities ever strung together all at once. Forget deleting the document: I want to take a blowtorch to the entire computer, obliterating not just what I've written, but the tools involved in producing such an appalling accumulation of asininity. This is a very dangerous stage. Once I've reached this juncture, I will (hopefully) realize that it's time to move on to Step #4.

4. Get away from it. Blatantly ignoring the advice given in the end of Step #2, step away from the computer (after hitting save, of course!) and go do something active. When you come back, you will be astonished at how less ridiculous everything that you've written has magically become in your absence. Unless it hasn't. Then you really might be in trouble.

5. Repeat Steps 2-4 as needed until the project is done.

The truth is that like any skill, writing just requires a lot of time and hard work. There really is no trick to finishing a writing project other than investing the time necessary get it done.

Oh, and drinking lots of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.


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