Pete Davison: Finish What You… You Know

Posted on September 15, 2011 by

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Certain projects are easy to finish. Start building an Ikea bookcase and chances are you’ll finish it within an hour or two. Sure, there may be some swearing, splinters, cuts and/or bruises along the way, but at least you’ll get it done, and when you’re finished, you’ll end up with a (hopefully) stable bookcase, and possibly one or two leftover screws that you really think should go somewhere.

Creative projects are a little different. It’s easy enough to start them, but it’s finishing them that is the tricky bit. The challenging part is that, unlike our friend Billy the bookcase, creative projects don’t necessarily have an obvious “end” in sight. Sure, you might have some sort of amorphous final goal in mind (“write a novel”, “record an album”, “paint a picture”) but the exact steps along the way that will lead you to that final conclusion are sometimes obscured by your own ambition.

I’ve come a cropper on this a few times. I’ve had a story in my head since I was about 15 years old. I’ve started trying to write it at least 5 or 6 times across several different media — traditional writing (from various perspectives), blog-based writing, as a video game, as a visual novel — and somehow, despite the fact I’m in love with my characters and I want to tell this story — somehow it never quite gets there.

It’s not a matter of motivation — I do want this story to get out of my head and onto some form of “paper” (be it literal or metaphorical) but — thinking about it right now, I’m struggling to come up with valid excuses that aren’t simple procrastination. Perhaps it’s the fact that I write for a living every day and do this blog. Perhaps it’s the fact I have other interests besides writing preventing me from being completely committed to the project. Perhaps I have doubts that I can really bring the story — the opening of which I am intimately familiar with now I’ve composed it so many times across so many different forms of media — to a satisfactory conclusion.

I’m not sure what it is. Last time I started on it, I got into a good rhythm and started writing at a good rate. Then various life events got in the way and for one reason or another, I got out of the habit of writing it.

Perhaps I should take a more structured approach to it — set aside a specific time on certain days to do some writing. Although schedules are inherently limiting and repetitive, they can be great for self-discipline. Take a couple of years back when I got into a good habit of going to the gym and/or the swimming pool after work every day. Sure, it was on the way home, but I specifically “scheduled” my time so that I got into those good habits. It’s working for me again with the EA Sports Active stuff at the moment, which sets up a schedule for you day-wise, but leaves timing up to you. I’m structuring my day so that I can get up, have some breakfast, bum around for an hour or so, do my workout and then be ready in time to start actual proper work.

Perhaps I should take this approach — set a schedule, get some self-discipline going. Perhaps then one day this story might get finished. And then everyone can enjoy it.

Or possibly hate it. I don’t know. Only one way to find out, though.

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Posted in: Pete Davison