The Most Important Thing You Can Do As A Writer

What I’ve Been Wrestling With:



Why is it easier to start something than to finish? Why is there an attraction toward something new and un-begun over an ongoing project? I don’t necessarily have the answers behind the psychology of why we do this, or the allure of something new, but I will attempt to give some advice on ways we can practice completing a project and express how beneficial this practice is. Doing this will make you become a better writer.


It should be mentioned that when I mention shorter-form projects, that does not mean easier in any regard. In terms of written works, writing a compelling short story as opposed to a compelling novel, the former can be a more challenging task. Keep this in mind, and do not correlate short and long, with easy and hard. Put plainly, they are different but will work the same muscles.

With that being said, there is a well-known benefit to working on shorter projects in order to help build the fundamental skills of story craft. Short stories for instance are a great way to help develop these skills to later be used on long-form work. Many fiction writers have started their publishing careers with shorter works, refining their craft and building their publishing accolades. The process of telling a thematic story with compelling characters that fulfill a satisfying arc is just as important for long-form writing as it is for short-form works. Practicing this process with shorter projects dismissed the sometimes daunting (in terms of size and scope), task into more manageable components.

Consider this too, shorter fiction, as a means of practicing the completion of a project, can sometimes be the birth or a scene to a longer piece. Oftentimes a short story can be viewed as just one scene in an overarching narrative. As an example, in Dan Simmon’s Hyperion part 6, the Consul’s Tale “Remembering Siri”, was first written as a short story, published in Simmon’s, Death of the Centaur, where it was used verbatim in the eventual novel.


Another familiar title that was originally published as a serial in a magazine is Dune, by Frank Herbert.


There is no shortage of examples of authors dabbling in short fiction or first making a name for themselves in shorter works before publishing long-form. A short google search will bring up names like Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Martha Wells, and countless others. 


If anything, the practice of finishing anything will help you in reaching your creative goals. To have a million ideas lacking development, polish, or a cohesive narrative is worth nothing. An unfinished project is worth nothing. Even having a single, completed rough draft of something is more valuable to you and will teach you more than starting a new piece over and over.


Even as I write this article, I am beginning and practicing the process of completing something. Despite it taking away from my longer works, it is still valuable practice, worth more than the hundreds of other ideas, half baked.


So Wrestle with this.

Try starting a small project (something new)—it can be a short story, an outline, a completed rough draft. After that is done, edit it, revise it, and bring it to a level of completion. The first time you write something is not the final draft. Build that habit of working through the “un-fun” parts and writing to completion.

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