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When you have a new writing idea, it’s exciting. You can’t wait to begin work on it. You think about it all the time. You think it’s the Best Idea Ever. And then, in a few days or weeks or months, the shiny wears off. And writing more on that particular writing project becomes work.
What happens then is a big, scary temptation: you get a NEW writing idea for a whole new project. An exciting, shiny idea. Like your old one used to be. But now your old project feels like crap and your new idea becomes your one hope for a better writing career. But it’s a trap.
There are only 2 writing rules you MUST obey:
- You must write.
- You must finish what you write.
If you want to finish your writing projects, you must learn to write even when your writing ideas stop being shiny and new and exciting. You have to keep writing when you feel the project is pure dreck. (Excuse my Yiddish.) You have to write, in other words, when it feels like work. And not the exciting work kids dream about when they decide to go to college, either. Sweeping-floors, scrubbing-toilets level work.
Right now, my current writing project, Expedition to Erileth, is still mostly pretty shiny. But my particular writing demon (his name is Bill) is that my writing projects can turn unshiny after only a day or two of work.
I’m determined, though, that THIS project will be finished whether it turns out to be good or to be pure horse droppings. Because that’s what I have to do to be a real writer.
(Note: there is one circumstance where it is OK to drop a writing project. That’s when it really is dreck— that is, when you have started writing a porno, or a KKK propaganda piece. If you get to the point where you know the project is morally wrong on that level, and you can’t salvage it by turning it into something different, then you may drop it. But even in those circumstances, leaving a project unfinished is a risk— so don’t make it a habit. You don’t want to end up like me with a long history of unfinished writing projects dragging you down.)
Cat note: the cat in the picture above is not new and shiny. She’s very old— ten years, which is quite a lot for an outdoor farm cat in an area full of coyotes and sometimes wolves. Her name is Cheney, and I got her election day 2004 along with a male cat I named Bush. Together they had a litter of kittens. I still have 2 of them: Reagan, a white, blue-eyed male, and Mariska, a Siamese-looking female.