CharactersSavvyBlogWriting Life

Yes Jon, there will be Projects by Leslie Dow

I’m a project person. You know the kind who has a half-completed car restoration cocooned under a tarp in the front yard and a kitchen with approximately 3 out of 12 drawers missing pulls. My significant other, Jon, visibly twitches when I stare pensively at something in the house and say “I was thinking…”

I love me a good project, or at least I adore starting them. I have right now in viewing distance from my couch no fewer than 5 projects:

  1. The barely started knitting from three years ago. It does look pretty in the fabric basket from Ikea.
  2. Speaking of Ikea, the side panel on the fridge is still missing. That was part of the kitchen remodel from last February
  3. Another cute Ikea fabric basket contains a selection of naughty cross stitch that I planned to make for Jon (f*ck cancer) for Christmas this year, until I realized how freaking TINY cross stitch is. I mean can’t they make some BIG cross stitch? WTF?
  4. If we were to move the Ikea Billy book cases, we might (or might not…nod to Schroedinger) find that the wall they are hiding was not painted last spring when I repainted the living room.
  5. And we’ve not dug into the “Writing” folder on my computer! And I write for a living! People PAY me to write. OK SOPs, technical reports, and user guides, but still! Cha-ching!

I want to finish my stories. The rest of it would be nice but let’s face it those drawers will get pulls about 3 days before we put this house on the market, and I guess I’m OK with that. So what insanity makes me think that THIS YEAR I will actually finish the stories that I have started and keep saying I will finish?

Psychologists say that for people like me it’s all about fear, tedium, and drudgery. We start something all shiny and new but then it turns into something that is actually HARD. It takes work which seems daunting when maybe we’re not sure about the next step.

Sure sounds familiar to me. That sounds like the Chapter 3 Cliff to me. I can slam out three chapters that are funny and smart and move like the wind. I can nail the inciting incident, add some stakes, and then…SLAM. Then I run into a wall. That wall exists at about plot point 1 in the Three-Act Structure: the end of Act 1.  Here’s a nifty graphic that I pinched off Twitter from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.

There is a great article in Psychology Today that walks through this problem and gives you 5 ways to solve it. The first one, is the one that makes the most sense to me:

Become aware of your pattern of starting and stopping.

Based on the examples above, I stop when something becomes less interesting and more tedious (finishing the pulls) or is too hard (knitting), or when I cannot see the next step (Post-chapter 3 writing and that damned cross-stitch).

I can buy a magnifying lamp for the cross stitch but what can I do about the Chapter 3 Cliff?

Let’s take a look at something I have not discussed here yet, that there are very difficult and sometimes tedious things that I do manage to finish. (No really, there are). Like:

  1. Got a PhD in chemistry
  2. Restored a vintage Airstream trailer–and finished it!
  3. Written many Many MANY SOPs, technical reports, and user guides. (Trust me on this, these are tedious)
  4. Remodeled 4 houses, including all the drawer pulls.
  5. Taught myself how to code, something I have been working on for years, and continue to do so.

And more. When I put my mind to it, I can finish just about anything I start. I think the commonality between the things I finish is:

  • The challenge itself was compelling to me.
  • The reward was clear and desirable
  • The activity was fun.

I like writing. I like learning new things. I like working with my hands. So, I really should not have the cliff issue! Hmmmm.

I’m not sure I have an answer. But I am sure that I love writing and I will keep doing it. I’ll also keep reading about how others  have conquered their Don’t-Always-Finish-Itis. How do they finish? What was the trick that worked? And lastly and most importantly, I will write in a mindful state. I will be aware when I stop, why I am stopping, and jot down what I’m feeling and thinking.

What do you do when you slam into the cliff?

The site director and owner of where she sits behind the curtain most days turning interweb knobs and twisting network dials. A comp...
Definitely have a lot of things on the To Do List that have not gotten done, though others amazed me. I mean, I totally cleaned out my mother's 94 years of collected tidbits and "I might need this in the future" stuff within two months of her death in January 2015, though I'll admit that I didn't write a damn word during that time. But there was that "goal" of getting the house empty, back to code for sale in the prime house selling months (Spring-Summer) so I could rejoin the life that had been on half-hold during the years of caregiving. And the house sold within two days of being listed, so that worked out well and I got moved.

When one of my editors needs some tweaking done to a manuscript, I get that done within days. When I have a Savvy workshop launching, I get the lectures written, I respond to posts in the workshop in a timely manner.

But after the holidays this year, can I get back in the habit of pounding out lots of new words?

Nope. I'm napping and reading other people's stuff -- which is good but not moving my own stuff along.

So, yeah, Leslie, I totally sympathize with you. And totally agree that cross stitch instructions should appear in a larger font! :) For some reason I decided to save some of the half finished needlework projects my mother left behind (half finished projects may be gene pool related!) and haven't done so yet. Know she'd be floating at my side telling me I was doing them wrong anyway. I tend to get creative and go off plan as often with needlework as I do when writing a story.

Here's to more projects getting completed for both of us in 2020!

Beth Daniels, aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane, Nied Darnell
    Here! Here! I'm tricking myself into finishing more in 2020, with external deadlines that are painful or embarrassing to miss. We'll see if my threshold for pain and embarrassment increases or if I actually get more done. :ROFLMAO: All kidding aside, I hardly ever miss a dayjob deadline so I know I can finish things if the stakes are high. What's nice about this kind of introspection is that it for me, tends to lead to better results. But we'll see!