Why Can’t I Finish Anything? – Audio response in ”continue reading”
I’m angry at myself because I start out all revved-up to do big projects and bucket list stuff, but my projects never get finished. I jump into research and planning. I’m motivated and inspired, and everything is great, then little by little, things get in the way. I try to keep up the magic but it loses luster. Everything then becomes hard and draining and my motivation and creativity die a sad gray death.
I don’t understand how I lose heart in the whole friggin thing after being top of the world excited. I’ve started an organic garden, learning to play the guitar, faux painting, learning to play the piano, speaking French, and a dozen other things. Most recently, writing a novel that’s been on page 12 for the last month. I have an OK career, a great partner, a kid from hell, “who I do love”. I’ve no real excuses, life is busy but not insane.
While I used to cringe when my family and friends asked how’s it going with that “latest thing” Now no one even brings it up, which is honestly worse. Is there some secret to keeping the motivation high till I can complete at least one thing? I am embarrassed and feeling pathetic.
I want my G-d-Damn muse back.
Your Devil says
Beating yourself up, will not bring her back.
There are as many ways through the issue of creative motivation as there are people craving life be more than a dutiful completion of chores. Accept my assurance, guilt-ridden self-flagellation is not one of them.
And to be clear, you have created much. The optimistic world you perceive, your child, your relationships, career. So you set out on this walk to meet your personal genius. Build yourself a this, paint, or perform a that, open a vein and write yourself delirious. What you and all people needing to creative, is your response to being alive. What stops you is not a failure to complete, but rather a failure to permit.
Look to the “image” of the artist in the public eye. They have no such dilemma. They live in the spirit of creativity. With fire in belly and mind, they burn until exhausting themselves in a flurry of beauty. Then a quick dance with death, rise and begin again. They can be morose and obsessive creatives. Not fun and lighthearted like myself.
This Muse, is a bad mythology to live. The souls in history who choose this seemingly romantic path live in disarray and dysfunction, broken hearts and families. All for the sake of chasing a delusional filthy grace. What great masterpiece do you know, is of the artist’s beloved? Or symphony presented to the “kid from hell” as you say? What writer ablaze has ever remembered their partners birthday? Never once have I targeted malice towards these creatures, as they did such a better job of it themselves. And while living that myth is unfortunate, borrowing from it may work in your favor.
What is the value of your self-expression?
Your quest is to balance both, and that is no easy feat at first, because you have needlessly separated the two. In truth, you have painted your friendships, sculpted your child and written your relationship with your partner. And to your credit, have managed to not leave your child in the woods or feed your boss to a paper shredder or poison your partner for breeding contempt. I applaud your creativity, efforts and disciplined restraints. Now permit me to remove my gloves.
You are going to die. Do not let that human trait of assumed immortality befuddle your intentions again. My intention is not to be brutish, or to shiver your spine, but to tailor this truth to your needs. Let your death be your guide, and as such, your motivator. Now let me ask you, within your life, what is the value of your self-expression? When you feel that sad gray death as you say. Is it the loss of what could be? Only you know this Muse. And to this point, are you worth fighting for? And yes, that is rhetorical.
Living within your genius is not a pithy saying but a personal practice.
And this practice does not care what you do, so long as you do it with intent. If your novel need not be written because the living room needs painting, then do not write your novel. If, however, you choose to see how finite you are, your words will find a page to cling to. Simply be willing to work, as you’re not out of the woods just yet.
As I mentioned permission, you need to give it and nurture it, within the course of your days. And that must come from yourself, not others. Support is fine, but if absent, no matter. Others can become quite defensive when you stretch the image of yourself they are most comfortable with. Luckily you live in the best age that if you meet downright resistance from yourself and others, and hear the accusing words, “who do you think you are?” Know your answer must be as caustic and venom filled as to turn the intent back on your inquisitor.
And while such resistance may never fully go away, they are never a match for your new final guide walking beside you. I wish you well and much success.
Now you know why he’s never invited to parties. OK whatever chuckles has to say, but let’s put a plan into action and start with your novel.
Search meetups, libraries, and bookstores for writer’s groups. Not going it alone is the best way to finish. You need other writers! There are even writer’s groups meeting online and in virtual worlds. Avoid the preachy ones.
Do a search on writing challenges and see what catches your attention.
Purge your entire story into a first draft. It doesn’t have to be good, it just needs to get on the page. You will have a rewrite or two and rounds of editing in front of you, but nothing more important than banging that first draft out on the page.
Keep a family/life balance but schedule time to write. Write one word if that’s all you got today but write it and don’t give up that time slot. My favorite writer often says “I know dinner is ready when the smoke detector goes off”. Be willing to get greedy with your time and steal it back.
You also need readers and feedback. Friends might say yes to be nice but often don’t come through. Other writers are best. You read their work and they read yours. Famous or unheard of, published or not, every writer is becoming their own best writer, so no egos allowed. Be constructive and supportive and only accept the same.
Now, come the day you’re ready to tackle those other projects, it’s the same recipe. Rinse and repeat and be your own renaissance woman.
Best of luck and we look forward to your first rough draft (And yea, I will make him read it).