“Will he finish what he begins?”
Want to start a piece of work and never finish? Fancy tinkering away endlessly at something until you die? Here’s the sure fire way to do it: edit your work while you’re writing.
Or alternatively, if you’re in the mood to get something finished, don’t do that.
Often we can spot things we want to fix very quickly. We might have a glance at what we’ve written the day before and know that there is a better way of doing it. Or maybe those lines could be better. That bit should be shorter… or longer. Maybe it’s worse and what you have written is a total train wreck. The temptation is to get stuck in and fix it.
Don’t do it.
There will ALWAYS be something to fix. Fixing things as you go along is a trap. It’s a void which sucks you in and will never let go of you until you either die of boredom or of actual death. If you spot something to fix, great – that’s good! Make a note of it for the next draft and then continue on. Your first goal should always be to finish what you’re doing. Polished and unfinished? No use to anyone. Rough and finished? That’s a milestone and now you can see the big picture and know what you need to fix.
The important part is that you have a beginning, middle and end.
By the way, I think this is true of design work too. If you’re designing characters or a location, don’t give up on it or wipe everything away because it isn’t going right. Keep at it. Worst case scenario is that you end up with a sample of something you can rule out – that’s a key part of the design process. But there may be something in there you really like if you use it a different way. You need to see the design in order to know that.
It’s with good reason that Yoda asks Ben “will he finish what he begins?” about Luke. He doesn’t ask “will he get it right?” or “will he be totes awesome?” or anything else. He looked for patience and the ability to finish. And then Luke went running off to Bespin. Oh, Luke.
Finish what you start. The way to do that is to avoid the urge to edit your work as you go along. Write, finish, then edit.