Before the end of the year I will be done the first draft of the manuscript of my second book.
Having the “finish line” on my mind, I wanted to write about some of the things that I’ve learned over these last couple years on the subject of “finishing.”
Starting something is easy – most people have enough ideas of their own (or access to other’s ideas) to get the inspiration to start. After we start, perspiration becomes far more important than inspiration, and really it is just a matter of sitting down each day, turning off the never ending noise machine which is our mind, and doing our work.
But when we approach the finish line, we start to self assess.
We start to wonder whether our work is any good, and whether it will be received well by others.
This isn’t just for a writer. It applies to the pursuit of any creative venture: a new business enterprise, an artistic or music endeavour. Approaching the finish line causes us to pull our head up from the daily grind of “getting our work” done, and introspect.
We don’t want to introspect when we are in production mode. The best thing that we can do is just grind, each day. But, at some point, in the process (usually around the finish line) the introspection is natural.
We start to think about finishing, and what will be the result of our investment of time.
During this process it is easy to doubt ourself and wonder if this whole endeavour was a colossal waste of time, and if so what should we do? Do we push forward and finish, even if there is a chance that it isn’t a “run away best-seller” or the type of business that makes us a millionaire.
I cannot say that all things in life should be finished. The advice of “never quit” as much as we like to suggest this as a mantra, is actually quite misleading. We quit all the time, and in many cases, it’s a very good thing.
There are many smart times to quit. It’s smart to quit jobs where our personal creative genius will never be cultivated.
It’s smart to quit careers where we aren’t motivated to become our best self.
Sleepwalking through life – trading time for money just to buy some stupid status symbol that we think will impress people that we could care less about impressing – that is not an empowering way to live.
Quitting that life is smart.
But what about our creative work? And by creative work I mean that offering that we give to the world that is purely our own unique creation.
Whether it be a book, an article, a business, a song. What about that? Do we quit on that?
No. We can’t.
The admonition to never quit, only truly applies to those things in our life that we most emotionally identify with, and we are the only person in the world, not our parents, not our church leader, not our boss, not even the President of the country can tell us what those things are.
Only we know.
So if we find ourself staring down the completion of one of those things, we have to first determine if it’s truly “one of those things”.
Here we have to look deep within, and ask ourself – is this a must in my life?
Is my soul, the very essence of who I am as an individual, connected to this task? Do I truly identify my unique purpose in life with this act that I’m engaging in? Must I do this? Is it a want, or is it a must?
If it’s a must, then we have to finish.
No matter how difficult it may be. Even, especially, if no one ever reads our book, or buys our products, we need to complete it for us.
Because if we can finish it, then we’ll be able to finish everything else, meaningful, in our life that we attempt in the future. Therefore, it becomes of utmost importance, to our most strongly held hopes and desires, that we finish the project.
How do we do that?
Well, it is actually quite easy. We finish it the same way that we started it – we sit down, for a pre-determined time, and we make progress on it.
If we do this every single day, eventually we’ll be done. Nothing can stop us from completing it.
There is so much power in incremental progress, it is one of the most under-appreciated forces in the world.
Small steps, consistently maintained over a long period of time produce amazing results.
We see so many examples of this in nature. You can never “watch” a tree grow, it’s growth is too small to notice, but each day, it is growing, each day it is progressing, and slowly, and steadily it rises into a great structure that can out live a human.
A couple drops of rain don’t account for much, but a steady drizzle maintained day after day can lead to great floods, and incredible power as the accumulation of water grows.
This power can work in all aspects of our life as well, and it does work, whether we are aware of it or not.
Every day we are making choices, and when it’s all said and done, when our life is at its end, what we will have, in terms of memories, is nothing but the accumulation of all the small choices that we previously took.
There might be memorable acts of choices throughout our life, but they are the exception. The rule is the day to day. It is the choices that we make each day that in the end make or break us.
Do we watch an hour of TV, or do we spend this hour making progress on our book or business?
Do we walk or do we take a cab?
Do we eat the apple or the cake?
Each choice has a profound, and compounding, effect on our life, and the result is astounding.
Look at any accomplished person, in any field, and what we will see is that the person, each day, made small choices, to in some way or another work on their craft.
That is how we finish. Each day, for a pre-determined amount of time, we make forward progress. We stick to it. With this method there is nothing that we can’t finish.