Convincing yourself you’re not done

Writer’s block gets all the attention. It robs the inspired and stunts the progress of those with a deadline to beat. It’s a starting problem.

At some point, I learned all the tricks for overcoming the start, for getting past the blank canvas. Now, I find myself challenged by the converse. I have a finishing problem. I’m always convincing myself that I’m not done.

How do I get a bunch of words to feel like a cohesive essay? What’s needed to ship this code? How do I get this awesome joke to fit into one little tweet?!

It’s an ongoing challenge. Even if the essay, code, or joke I’m working on isn’t throwing me curveballs, my head can jump in and impose one. Not eloquent enough, has a potential bug, too obtuse. My brain can come up with any number of ways to convince me that I shouldn’t call the thing done.

Here are some things I’ve been trying to outthink my brain:

  • Before I sit down to make something, decide what the goal for the session is. Am I trying to get started, explore a new direction, edit or refactor something, or push through the details needed to finish?
  • When I start something, outline it. What is the beginning, middle, and end of the thing? What is the result? What are the materials (example code, a demonstrative screenshot, a funny picture), and do I need to acquire or create them?
  • Put up a little resistance when the temptation to start something new strikes. Consider whether it’s an exploration or a creation. Can I easily turn it into something I can publicize (on my weblog, GitHub, etc.), or is it an intermediate or even throwaway product?

I’m not sure if any of these will prove reliable finishers. Your mileage may vary.

Here’s my desktop folder. I shoved all my previously unfinished projects in another folder and wiped the slate clean.

A cleanish slate. Game, on.

Game on.