As NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) marches on, many of the people I follow on social have gone silent about their projects. Books, journal articles, blog posts, and that one person who said they’d write a poem every day have all stopped sharing their work. Maybe they are just too busy? Or maybe, more likely, they have realized the difficulty of their goals. Heck, I’ve nearly completed a few novels myself in past Novembers; but for those of you stalling out on your projects, I want you to know two things. First, and you already know this, it’s okay if you don’t finish. I mean, it’s okay if you don’t finish at all. Second, keep your work and look at it in a positive light.
This blog continues to tread on through the year with constant critique and self reflection. I’ve been steadfast about getting 3 blog posts a month and have tried a myriad of different posts in attempt to find my voice. You should know there were several blogs before this one. I had a food blog, a technical writing blog, a friends group blog, a personal blog, and a relationship blog with my significant other. Out of that list only the last one survives and it’s okay that they never really got going.
I’ve started more projects than I’ve finished, but at least I’ve started. Be proud that you have too. If you don’t finish, you can still feel sad, but attempt to reflect on the lessons learned. When “failing” a project, be it a book or blog, take a bit of time and reflect on what made you want to stop. Were you attempting perfection when good-enough was needed? Maybe you didn’t plan well enough? Did you ask the right people for criticism? Did you ask anyone for help? Or maybe you questioned your passion or motives for starting in the first place?
In any case, you have a character flaw that prevented you from continuing on. Great! You have something to work on. Maybe you jumped the gun on a project that you couldn’t care less about. Maybe you just told too many people of your plan and it feels like you can’t live up to your own hype. My favorite, you just needed one person to tell you the truth that your idea sucks instead of hesitating before saying, “Sounds great”. That’s your fault for not asking the right people and it’s not their fault for sparring your feelings. Luckily enough for you there is always next time to ask someone different.
In that next time try to take some of your lessons learned from your previous project. Use those lessons to fuel your self-rhetoric in order to keep yourself going. Tell yourself things like, “this sentence is terrible, but I can edit it later. At least it’s on the page!”. You can also say things like, “I have an outline this time. At least I know where I’m going”. You can also try different strategies like deadlines, scheduled writing, or getting a trusted writing buddy to keep you accountable.
As for keeping your “failed” projects, I save nearly all my projects digitally. Those “failures” are just as much a part of me as are my successes. Unlike saving your first attempt at mac-n’-cheese, the lingering burnt smell doesn’t linger with your writing. At least it shouldn’t.
You never know when, or if, you’ll feel like taking a stab at some of your previous writing projects. Also, they are useful for self reflection. I’ve looked at some of my previous writing and laughed at how terrible it was/is/continues-to-be. However, I take my self criticism and attempt to make meaningful changes for the future. There are even things I’ve pointed out that were positive to change in hopes for something better!
For instance, my post The, not-so-subtle, subtle art of complaining was a ton of work. It took me quite longer than expected. I enjoyed the heck out of it and it remains as my most viewed post. Since then, I haven’t dedicated the time to attempt writing a post like that again. Moving and a new job will take quite a bit of your time. At least that is my excuse. The reality, I’ve been nervous to really dedicate time to a project that I myself do not have confidence in continuing.
That anxiety has not stopped me, but it has stifled a tad. In an effort to overcome that lack of confidence I’m attempting a few other projects that are a bit more within my reach. Hopefully you’ve read my updates on accessibility, but I have a few others biding for my time. *Cough Cough* adding podcast episodes to this blog *Cough Cough*.
There may be only one reason why you started. There may be a million reasons why you stopped. In any case, look through that experience and find the self-rhetoric to persuade yourself to keep going next time. As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”. Truth of the matter, neither were you.
As always, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my thoughts. I hope that whatever project you’ve stopped that you’ve gleaned something good from the experience or learned something valuable. Also, I hope that you have found something to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire. Thank you for reading.