“It’s very well typed”
It took me seven years to finish my first book. (I wrote about this in The War of Art.) I couldn’t sell it. Couldn’t find a buyer. In fact it would be twenty-one more years before a novel of mine actually saw the light of publication.
But finishing that first manuscript meant everything. Was it any good? I was renting a little cottage in Northern California then and my landords, a couple, had watched me slave and agonize through two years to finish the book. They were curious. They asked to read it. When they returned the manuscript a week later, their comment was, “It’s very well typed,”
I didn’t care. My demons were about finishing. Until then, I had gotten to the 99-yard line on every project and compulsively blown them all up. I couldn’t get to THE END. I couldn’t ship, to use Seth Godin’s perfect term.
How do you get through a barrier like that? It’s Resistance, yes. You can tell yourself that. You can identify the monster. But how do you slay it? How can you finish, when every cell in your body is screaming, QUIT QUIT QUIT?
The only answer I’ve found is sheer will. There’s a legend about Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, many more) that as he got close to the end on a novel he was writing, he would start getting up earlier and earlier in the morning to work on it. First it was six o’clock, then five, then four. Finally he’d have to move out of the house, check into a hotel, just to keep from driving his wife crazy.
Michael Crichton was smart. He knew that as he approached the moment of truth, of shipping, of exposing his creation to the world, his inner Resistance would ramp up its intensity, trying to sabotage him, to keep him from reaching THE END.
So he upped his own intensity. I didn’t know Michael Crichton, but I can imagine his self-talk during those final do-or-die weeks. No doubt he lashed himself like a Marine drill instructor. He encouraged himself like a highly-paid coach.
Finish it. Don’t chicken out! FINISH THE DAMN THING!
In other words, will. Pure, no-nonsense will.
For me, the agony of not finishing something … the shame, the self-loathing, the disgrace in my own eyes and the eyes of everyone who knew me … was like a fiery goad that seared my flesh every morning.
“It’s very well typed.”
I don’t care! The thing is done! It’s a wrap! I did it. Nothing anyone can say or think, even if they’re 1000% right, can take that away from me.
And here’s the even better news (which proved true for me and which I pass on to all of us struggling to get a make-or-break project across the finish line):
Once you finish, even one time, you will never have trouble finishing again.