A writer wrote to me recently asking for advice on how to finish a project. It seemed that she couldn’t bring herself to go back and edit the work on the one last pass that it needed. She felt absolutely blocked, and wondered if she shouldn’t just give up on the work and move on to other things.
Usually when there’s a block of this kind, it has to do with fear – the specific fear of finishing. Because with finishing comes judgment: now that it’s done, we (or others) will evaluate our work and (we fear) will condemn it. Rather than face this phantom critique, we simply just don’t finish. We call it procrastination or perfectionism, but it’s really just fear.
But here’s the thing about fear: it’s a natural and inevitable part of the creative process. When you acknowledge it as such, when you start to accept it and stop trying to defeat it, then you can engage with it in a healthy and productive manner.
Suppose you found yourself saying, “Okay, there’s a good chance that when I finish this thing it will suck and then I will feel like I suck, but oh well, I am driven to create, so I might as well just throw it out the window and see if it lands.” If you take this approach, then you can accept and absorb your fear without letting it slow you down or hold you back.
The consequence of this will be… of consequence: You will have gotten something done and finished a project and advanced your skills — all big wins for you.
So do it. Do those last edits. Apply the final brush strokes and call the painting done. Polish your five minutes and go up at that open mic. Whatever it is that you do that you love, just do it till it’s done. Then throw it out the window and see if it lands. This is how your practice grows.
Much more on the subject can be found in my books The Comic Toolbox, Creativity Rules and A White Belt in Art. I would post links but I fear (ha!) that people will think me a huckster.
Think positive, test negative. -jv