Finishing Touches

11 Aug

Albert Einstein once said that true genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Words cannot describe how true that quote is for writers. No, wait. Actually, words can

Manuscript [73.13.8]: Pencil Sketch by Albert ...

Manuscript [73.13.8]: Pencil Sketch by Albert Einstein Illustrating Light Contraction (Princeton, NJ, 1934) (Photo credit: MagnesMuseum)

 describe how true is. In that case, the following words will.

If you’re a writer, I know one fact about you – you have about two hundred unfinished projects, ideas which you were really excited about when you first thought of them, but lost your enthusiasm after approximately three paragraphs. A short story which has a protagonist, a title and two sentences, or a play which has an in-depth analysis for the characters and nothing else. Every writer has these, but here’s the important bit – unfinished projects divide into two subcategories.

The first is ideas which you thought were good, but didn’t stand up to the selection process of actually getting written. You thought they were good at first, but realized after five minutes that they weren’t going anywhere but southward. And so you shelved them. Or drawered them, I guess. Whatever. The point is, not every idea is a winner, and it’s not good to waste time on projects that won’t ever pan out. And that’s fine.

However, there’s the second kind of unfinished projects, and these are very different. These are projects which you started, but forgot where you were going with them, or just ran out of steam. The hardest part of a writing is not starting. It’s not even getting past writer’s block. No, the hardest part is picking up a half-finished idea and continuing it. It’s isn’t easy, but if you want your writing to go places, it has to be done.

So I’m sure you have a few half-baked cakes in your writing oven. Open your shelf, or your drawer – well, your computer, probably – and dust a couple off. Give them a second look. See what looks as if it has potential, and give it another try.

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3 Responses to “Finishing Touches”

  1. Frank August 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Plenty of those, yes. But usually these are ideas without a proper story to drive them. It is funny to read them a few months or years later.

    • nesherehrman August 14, 2013 at 5:34 am #

      I’ve found that you can also find inspiration for a new project from a discarded old one, even if you don’t continue the old one itself. Your past self can be surprisingly smart.

    • Frank August 14, 2013 at 5:39 am #

      I’ve certainly had a few ‘Huh. Wow.’ moments. I found one story that had wandered off inelegantly ten years ago, and figured out a way to salvage and rewrite it nicely.

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