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Decoding the unfinished

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Have you ever wondered why it seems as though writers often begin a story, but hesitate to finish it? We--or at least, I--typically tend to have an endless number of works-in-progress that go untouched in our drafts for weeks, or maybe even months, at a time. Yeah, we tend to have periods where we get away from the pen and pad for some reason or the other, but what happens when we never even revisit that initial draft? Or, if we do dare to open up that draft again, we’re only able to view it with a certain sense of disdain from that point on.

The reason that writers often begin but never conclude some of their works, is because at times we simply come to truly value the unprecedented feel of something new. Something fresh and unscathed. We fall head over heels for the idea of, well, an idea. One that hasn’t been picked apart or ripped to shreds by anyone else’s judgment yet—including our own. When we (writers) tend to have a new idea for a story or a spoken word piece, a poem or script, we throw ourselves into it wholeheartedly. Because we alone are aware of its potential in the very beginning. All the things it could be or the places it could take those who read our work. But when we begin to get into the thick of our draft, then comes that little ‘voice’ who eventually stirs and awakens.

It seems to arrive out of nowhere, drawn to our new ideas like a shark drawn to blood in the ocean. That voice, that harsh and unforgiving parasite which feeds on the idea(s) of writers everywhere—or any other artist, really—is our inner critic. The thing about our inner critic is that it almost always stems from an external source. One that has somehow crept its way into our brains, and even further, our imaginations. It shows up and starts to utter things like, “that’s already been done before,” or “no one will read this--this is boring.” More often than not, we end up hurting our own feelings--probably because we subconsciously want to beat others to the punch.

Other times, we leave work unfinished because we lose motivation or begin to suffer burnout. It can be hard to keep the flame ignited, simply because we might be the only one in our corner rooting for us. That’s where writer communities come in. They play such a vital role in helping us to finish what we start. Like, ask a few people to be beta readers for our first draft. Having a fresh set of eyes--especially from someone who understands the craft, or just a creative eye in general--can really help to alleviate some of the pressure that we end up placing on ourselves. It helps to hold us accountable when someone asks, “How’s that chapter coming along?” Or, what also works for some, positive reinforcement. “I really enjoyed reading that second installment. I’m really looking forward to what happens next.”

Ultimately, though, it’s up to us to tune all of that out. Sometimes, you simply have to finish your story for YOU. Not for your readers, not for your editor, but for YOU! It’s a fulfillment factor, as I’d like to think of it. It’s about bringing the vision of your story to completion/full circle because you owe it to--at the very least--your characters, the world you built within the pages, and most of all, your imagination. Only you know how you want your story to look once it's done. After that, it's simply a matter of figuring out when and how you want it finished on your timetable.


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