So yesterday I was talking to a friend about the difficulty of finishing artistic endeavours. We’ve all been there. That rush you get with a new idea, the excitement of starting a fresh, new project… then it becomes work and you lose the enthusiasm for it. Or worse. You start to worry that no one will like it, that you’re a hack, that it’s not as good as you first thought. For me, it’s often a combination of both, and honestly, I didn’t even realise that the latter was a thing until very recently.
I was lucky. I’m bloody pig-headed when I want to be, and I have a fairly good work ethic. I don’t do anything in life half-arsed, and although that doesn’t always serve me well, when it comes to writing I’m very grateful to that part of my mentality.
Finishing The Redwood Rebel was probably the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. Doesn’t matter how I feel about it now, or how anyone else feels about it, either. I set out to write a book, and I did it. Now I know I can, there’s nothing to stop me from finishing another, and another, and to keep finishing books for as long as I want to be doing it.
But what’s the trick to getting there? Well, as always with advice from yours truly, I can’t give you a magical answer that will fix everything, but I can tell you what worked for me.
-Make a to-do list. It might sound silly, or maybe even obvious, but having a physical list of what you need to get done can help really channel your productivity. I keep two, personally. I write a daily list of things I’d like to get done, and then I have a long-term list, currently titled “The Plan VII”. Remember that nothing in life is ever solid, that plans change and you should adapt with them, but always keep your main goals in focus. Doesn’t matter how you get there in the end, does it? To-do lists are a good way to keep your sights on that finish line. Plus it’s so rewarding when you can cross off a task you set yourself!
-Surround yourself with inspiration. Music, art, books, people… whatever it is that makes you want to work, keep it prominent in your sphere. I always have some kind of inspiring quote as the wallpaper of my computer and my phone, I have specific playlists for when I’m working, films I’ll watch if I’m having a block, and people I go to for motivation. All through the sixth draft of TRR I would write “Stay The Course” on the back of my hand before I sat down to write. I also have a small statue of Athena on my desk with an incredibly judgemental expression, which helps if I stare off into space for too long. Find what drives you, and keep it close.
-Routine! Can’t even stress this one enough. Getting into a routine of work is so incredibly helpful, I promise you. Now a lot of us (myself included) have other things going on around us that keep us from having a specific time we can sit down to work on our craft, so when I say “routine” I want you to know I don’t mean in the traditional sense. I have a preferred time and place to write, but The Real World™ doesn’t give a bag of crabsticks about this and will go along with or without me. Instead, I have a routine for myself before I sit down to work, whenever that happens. For me it’s usually a change of clothes, washing my face, making a drink, putting on music, opening my files, scrolling through social media for half an hour (it’s an important part of the process, okay), then it’s writing o’clock. It works for me, but find what works for you, and stick to it.
-Set aside a work space. My productivity increased a huge amount once I got a proper desk, as opposed to just lolloping about wherever. Like the routine thing, it clicks your mind into the right gear to get your nose to the grindstone. I’m working with very limited space these days, but I do the best I can with what I have. Sometimes it doesn’t work, so I get up and go to find somewhere quiet to work, and that helps, too. I feel like physically going somewhere with the express intention to write makes me actually knuckle down and do it once I get there. Even if the only real reason is because it takes me a solid forty-five minutes to walk anywhere interesting from where I live!
-Remember why you’re doing this. Do you know why you’re doing this? I bet you do, even if you’ve never really vocalised it. It could be any reason at all; I shan’t speculate. We all have our reasons and it can be vastly different from person to person. Whatever your reason is, though, hold it close with both hands. Keep it front and centre at all times, on the good days, and on the bad days, too. Be kind to yourself, and remember that no one can be always working -nor should they- but keep that reason for working in the first place like a little beacon in your mind. Don’t give up. Please, don’t ever give up. It’s hard to follow your dreams, but it’s the best way any of us can spend our lives. Trust in yourself, trust in your projects, and if you can’t do that, trust in me when I say that I believe in you, and I know that you can do this. You just have to keep trying.