I have too many projects I have started. I must pick one and finish it.
October 21, 2005 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I start new projects as a way of avoiding finishing things I have already begun. Why do I sabotage myself so? How do I stop? If I have seven projects partially started, which one should a bite the bullet on and just get done?

My paycheck-work takes me about three hours a day. I desperately want to use the rest of my time to write a book. The problem is I have started six books (as a way of not finishing any book.) I also have a seventh project that would double my income if I just spent two months kicking it out and then 2 hours a day maintaining it. I am paralyzed about which of these 7 I should just commit to. It is obvious to say work on the one most likely to be finished. But that is very cart < horse. i am most likely to finish the i work then might say, commit to the you like best? alas, those of you who have children: do you really love any of your offspring more than the others? i know my indecision is another way of not finishing. (yes, the old a href="http://www.postmodernvillage.com/eastwest/issue5/ftf05.html">Buridan's Ass problem.) So wise counsel of askme, either give me a methodology that can get me out of my malaise or just pick for me:
(1) Hard, drudgery, boring work that increases my money. Not that I really need but it would allow for more dinners out and an extra trip here and there.
(2) Labor of Love: The brutal-to-write opus book. The one that says everything I ever felt like I needed to say, all thickly encoded into a romping bout of symbols. The least likely to ever be finished because of the difficulty, but the one I would be happiest to have finished were it possible.
(3) The easier to write franchise book. Fun, and definitely challenging, not a sell out, but with a "series" in mind. If I commit to this, I have to commit to finishing 3 volumes.
(4) The weird little book. Shorter than the others, but perhaps harder to write because of the oddities.
(5) Non-fiction 1: A trade book for my industry. I am good at what I do and have a few new insights that some might value. I love my work so it might be fun, on the other hand, it doesn't really behoove me to share my hard won knowledge with my competitors.
(6) A non-fiction work about a topic I am fascinated by. Roll up the sleaves and start researching kind of thing. The hazard here is that I get bored with it before finishing.
(7) A trashy book, the most fun to write, but also carrying the risk of me self-sabatoging because it borrows too heavily from parts of my real life.

What do I do? How do I finish something? Which one of these should I just #$%@#%$ sit down and work on until it is done?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe before you write a book, you should read a book.
posted by duck at 2:46 PM on October 21, 2005

The above book is a good one, as is "getting things done".

I am going to approach this tangentially and say that maybe reading the book "Feeling Good" will help you wrap your head around some of the side issues that lead to procrastination.

Also, what you need is a community of book writers, a small one, to help you along, something like http://phinished.org but for authors not dissertation writers (although it has great, relevant information).

I have industrial strenghth ADD, and supposedly as a byproduct, I don't get that little rush that comes from completing things. I fear completing things, and it brings a sense of loss before the satisfaction hits, if it ever does. Mostly all I get is the release of stress but no neurochemical buzz.

In short, the procrastination thing can derive from social, cultural, neurochemical situations. Sometimes just working on the surface stuff is all it takes, though.
posted by mecran01 at 3:21 PM on October 21, 2005

(3). You need a tangible accomplishment under your belt before you can plunge the big ones, by the sound of it.
posted by ori at 3:47 PM on October 21, 2005

Suck it up and write the trashy book, you know you want to. Then do the money job while you are shopping it around and waiting to hear back. If you get rejections the extra money will allow you to self publish and hawk it on Amazon.

As for your Magnum Opus:

You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take

posted by Mr T at 4:14 PM on October 21, 2005

The problem many people have with finishing a book is not that they need to be better organized or more motivated. It's that they get to a certain point and can't figure out what should happen next, or are having other problems with the story that frustrate them. I recommend a workshop (including at least a few published writers) or perhaps Fiction First Aid if this sounds at all familair.
posted by kindall at 4:32 PM on October 21, 2005

Do the trade book. It has the combination of being among the easiest to finish and also to market once you've finished it. And in any case, pick one and do not allow yourself to work on any of the others or start any new ones until you have written THE END. You will most likely put it in a drawer anyway and do something else (pick #2 to work on) until you're ready to look at it from a distance and edit it -- that stage you haven't got to yet since you've never reached THE END on any of them.
posted by localroger at 5:17 PM on October 21, 2005

My vote is to skip (1) and do whichever of (2) - (7) that you can complete or see results from the soonest. My feeling is that you need to be clearer about which kind of writing project is most enjoyable and sustainable for you, because they are all hard work. Starting with the one that is likely to proceed smoothest will help, because it will either rule it out as "too silly/simple" and you can jump to a more important one, or it will be fulfilling enough and you'll be all set.

I had this problem with the visual arts -- I didn't know if I should make greeting cards or sculptures or keep working on a long-term photo project or make a music video, etc. So I did some of the quick small ones and ended up discovering that just doing them once completely fulfilled my desire to do them. So I only had to make one handmade book, one set of cards before I felt, "Okay, that was fun, but I'm not interested in doing that again." It whittled down my list of possibilities pretty quickly and easily, and now I'm only juggling 4 things, and they are all interrelated. Which works well, because when I have a free hour or day I can just choose whichever task I feel like working on and I don't have to question the value of the overall goal.
posted by xo at 5:33 PM on October 21, 2005

Do all of them at once. Seven projects, seven days in a week. It's a perfect fit.

You'll find that you are progressing faster on some than others. At the proper moment demote to half a day (or halt) the bottom two and apportion their time towards the top two.
Or up just the top one and add a new one at the bottom.

It doesn't matter how many irons you have in the fire as long as you are making progress.

I find that if you are not making progress you either don't know what to do next or your motivations are not what you think they are.
posted by hifimofo at 3:41 AM on October 22, 2005

Join the National Novel Writing Month this November and write one of those books then.

The emphasis is on quantity, not on quality, so you don't have to worry about writing something that will be Pulitzer-worthy.

The point is just to write.
posted by divabat at 7:27 AM on October 22, 2005

IANAW, just a historic procrastinator, but my immediate impulse is to agree with hifimofo. Doing something is better than stewing for ages while deciding what to do. The point about motivation is also quite pertinent: do you really want to write these books, or, having started them, do you feel obligated to finish?

I was/am in the same boat as xo, in that my "workroom" is ni part the "unfinished projects" room. It was incredibly depressing to look around at the pile of Oblique Strategies without clamshell boxes, the dress I pinned out and partially cut, welding gear, stained glass miscellany, etc. etc. etc. Then someone asked: "Well, what happens if you don't get back into it/finish?"

Anyway, long story short: there's no shame in NOT finishing every. single. thing. you start.
posted by Vervain at 2:46 PM on October 22, 2005

Pick one idea, put your butt in the chair every day until you've finished, even if you hate the idea by the end. It's all about just writing until finished. Nanowrimo was a good suggestion. Don't start another project until the ones you have started are finished.
posted by cass at 9:28 AM on October 24, 2005

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