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.

Inspiration for Design and Food

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Today I wanted to share one of my favorite design sites, NotCot. NotCot features an array of reader submitted pictures and stories featuring interesting design. The visual part is the hook, you won’t find any big blocks of text here, just interesting visual after interesting visual. If you want more information, each links to its source. Today, they’re featuring everything from art cars covered in toys to benches made from tennis balls.

Not only that, but they have two other sites with the same basic setup. is their clothing site (which is just getting started and really hasn’t found its feet yet) and which focuses on food. This is a foodies dream, page after page of luscious food photographs.

If you work in a visual medium NotCot is a great place to start your day and a quick way to keep up with what’s going on.

Best productivity tip: disable your inner-critic

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There was a challenge at instigatorblog to write your best productivity tip and link to other tips you felt were helpful.

My best tip is to…

Turn off your inner-critic for the first pass: When you are writing or sketching or designing something, let yourself do a quick first pass at it without criticizing it. Let your mind wander and be free. Once you have a complete rough, it’s much easier to go back and edit something toward perfection than it is to try to create something perfect the first time through.

Don’t be paralyzed by perfection!

After you’ve written your first draft, let your critic go crazy on it until it is good enough.

I wrote about a metaphor for this idea, the one I use, in The Two Faces of Creativity, Orson and Ed.

Here are links to some more great productivity tips.

Unplug! From Daily Blog Tips
Have fun! Kiss2


Fantastic essay on how to be creative…

From Hugh MacLeod’s How to be Creative. Topics covered include:

1. Ignore everybody.

The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. When I first started with the biz card format, people thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something more easy for markets to digest i.e. cutey-pie greeting cards or whatever?

3. Put the hours in.

Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort and stamina.

11. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps even more so. The work has to create a totally new market. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.

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