The Writer Who Never Finished Anything



In his always interesting blog, writer Mark Evanier answered a question from a reader who was having trouble finishing any project she started. She wanted to know how she could motivate herself to finish if there was no guarantee of an audience when she was finished. His answer brought up even more questions. Are you a writer if you’ve never finished anything? Is it enough to just call yourself a writer?

Here’s part of Evanier’s answer:

You’re fooling yourself to think you’re a writer. A writer finishes things…even things that never get sold. Every professional writer has things they’ve written that never sold or reached the public. In fact, we all have things we’ve written that upon reflection, we’re very glad didn’t reach the public. That script you’re writing now may turn out to be one that will never sell but you’ll never know that until you try, which means you have to finish it. As the saying goes, there are no great uncompleted novels.

His answer brought to mind Seth Godin‘s pithy quote that makes the same point, “Real artists ship.” Godin uses ship to mean completion of any project, personal or professional.

He points out that not shipping is just an expression of fear of failure. In his, and Evanier’s thinking, failing is as much of being an artist as shipping. In this post on Tim Burton, Seth sums it up succinctly:

One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen.

The other: fail. Fail often. Dream big and don’t make it. Not every time, anyway.

Do you have a project you’ve been putting off? Ship! After all, the quickest way to succeed is to fail as quickly as possible and move on to the next thing.

4 responses

  1. I can’t rest unless I’ve “finished”. For me, finishing is nearly the most important thing. Sometimes I will finish just so I can start all over again. I’ve left only one piece of work unfinished in my life and it was a painting that was taking forever because it had so many colors and so many little pieces to paint…I should go finish that. Thanks for the reminder…


  2. I agree with you YvF. Finishing is far more rare than people realize. One of my friends and I came up with a term for those folks. We call them 75 percenters. They are sometimes amazingly talented and driven, but they never get to the end of a project. A somewhat talented 100 percenter will always win over a genius 75 percenter.


  3. If something is not finished, it surely is not done, so writer with unfished work is not a writer. He is just a person who writes. And that goes for all projects, not only art. I guess most of people belong into ‘unfinishing group’. Am I right or right?


  4. I fear that when I finally finish the ultimate goal since I became a poet/writer; that’s it, my mission is complete…I hold onto life by procrastination?!


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