How To Complete Every Writing Project You Start: Become a Completion Addict

    Have you begun a new writing project?

    You had a brilliant idea and forged ahead with full enthusiasm.

    But now?

    You’re a third of the way in, and you’ve hit a wall.

    The original spark that excited you has gone, leaving you facing pages (and pages) of boring, methodical work.

    Wallowing in the doldrums, you suddenly hit upon another brilliant idea.

    This new spark captures your attention, promising all the excitement and thrills your current project lacks.

    You’re off again, starting a brand new project and leaving yet another work-in-progress in your wake.

    Sound familiar?

    It’s a cycle we’ve all repeated. Now it’s time to break the habit.

    Idea Addiction

    The problem is that we’re addicted to the intoxicating high of new ideas.

    The initial rush we get when inspiration hits makes us feel intelligent, inspired, perhaps even invincible. We see where this new idea could take us, and how impressive the end result will be.

    This high carries us through the initial planning and into the project, but it’s temporary. Sooner or later, the feeling peters out and we’re left facing the enormity of what we’ve started. Our mind begins looking for its next fix of exhilaration.

    In order to move forward on a project, we have to transition from the intoxication of the initial idea into a calmer, longer-lasting positivity, which will carry us through to the finish.

    Understanding the Addiction

    To make the transition to an ongoing positivity, we first need to understand why we’re addicted to the high of inspiration.

    As with all addictions, the high we crave disguises the emotional low we’re trying to avoid. Without the distraction of a fresh idea, we come face-to-face with our fears.

    Fear paralyses us with a multitude of ‘what if’ scenarios:

    • What if my writing isn’t good enough?
    • What if this project turns out to be a flop?
    • What if my readers hate this?

    To protect us from confronting these questions, our mind searches desperately for a way to return us to the euphoria that blocked the fear. Hey presto! We have a new idea.

    But there’s another way to view the situation: Fear means we’re attempting something amazing – something that requires courage and an adventurous spirit. If there wasn’t an element of fear to this, would it be worth doing?

    Acknowledging our fears and working through them goes a long way in helping us deal with Idea Addiction.

    By learning how to channel the fear into your writing process and breaking your projects into small steps, you too can conquer your fears.

    Of course, even after having moved past our fears, we may still be addicted to fresh inspiration. After all, an idea is full of potential, and having new ideas is essential to our writing.

    But to finish our projects, we need to replace Idea Addiction with a new habit, the addiction to completion.

    Replacing the Addiction

    Our brains are constantly searching for feelings of positivity and success. A simple compliment from a friend not only improves our mood, but also motivates us to repeat our actions in an attempt replicate the experience.

    If the brain feels good doing an action once, then it figures it should do the action again and again. (Anyone who has eaten chocolate will understand this concept.)

    When you get a new idea, your brain is flooded with excitement and happiness. It naturally wants to repeat the process.

    But to complete a project, we need to replace Idea Addiction with Completion Addiction.

    Completion Addiction uses the euphoric high you feel at the end of a project as incentive to continue working on it.

    Stop for a moment and remember the last time you completed a project.

    Remember the jubilant feeling of success that continued for days. Did you dance with glee? Did you shout your news from the rooftops? Did you treat yourself to dinner and spoil yourself with dessert? Do you still think back with happiness, weeks – even months – later, as you recall your completed project?

    This ‘fix’ is a deeper, more lasting bliss than the brief elation of a new idea. By using this completion high as motivation, you can train your brain to remain focused and energized as you work on your project.

    How does this work in practice?

    How to Train Your Brain

    You can train your brain to seek the completion high by completing a project and savoring the feeling of accomplishment this completion brings.

    You’re effectively showing yourself that this is an achievable and desirable high that you can seek again and again.

    As with all brain training, this takes time and dedication. To start this training, you will need:

    • A small project you can complete relatively easily, perhaps a small e-book or short story.
    • A vision of your end-product and the route you’ll take to get there.
    • The determination to make it through the rough patches and the fears to reach the end of your project.

     

    Armed with these, follow the process given below to train your brain for Completion Addiction.

    1. Choose your small project. Pick something you’ve already started. If you’re in the middle of a big project, break it into smaller projects so you can ‘trick’ your brain into a completion high.

    2. Commit to your project. Set yourself a deadline. Tell your friends and family what you’ve got planned. This accountability will keep you focused.

    Envision this as a finished project. What will it look like? How will it be used?

    3. Don’t envision fame. Envision satisfaction. Psych yourself up for the work ahead.

    4. Make a list of the steps you need to tackle in order to complete this project. Keep the steps to a manageable size.

    5. When you’re tempted by the high of a new idea, record the idea somewhere and return to your project. Keep envisioning your finished product and the satisfaction you’ll feel when it’s done.

    6. Take note of the fears you face as you continue your project. Don’t hide from the fear, or push it away, but work through it. Treat each fear as a challenge to be overcome.

    7. Breathe in the jubilant high of completion. When you finally finish your project, bask in that moment. Enjoy your accomplishment.

    8. Carry the yearning for completion on to your next project.

     

    You may need to repeat these steps several times before your brain gets addicted to completion, but using this technique will get you from write to done.

    Once you learn how to complete every writing project you start, you will not only accomplish more, but also experience a calmness as you work.

    With this new addiction in place, you’ll feel more in control of your goals and projects, instead of frantically jumping from one idea to another. You will also recognize and face your fears, a great way to keep them in check.

    The high of new ideas and the fears we face will never go away. But with simple brain training, you can conquer your fears and bring each new idea to fruition.

    How do you keep yourself focused and energized to complete your projects? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

    About the author

      Jessica Baverstock

      Jessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity's Workshop where her creativity writes in purple text. Her latest e-book Creativity on Demand covers how writers can access their creativity whenever and wherever they need inspiration.

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    • Corianne says:

      Yes, I love ideas and I have such problems finishing things! Mostly I work on short stories now, and even that can be a challenge to fit in.

      Lately I have been using a wall calendar to track my progress, jotting down a big fat zero if I didn’t do anything on a given day. I find it very motivating and also fun to look back and what I did at exactly which day.

      • I love tracking my progress too! It can be very motivating when you’re working towards a goal.

        It’s also interesting to notice patterns that might cause days where you end up with ‘a big fat zero.’ Sometimes there’s a common factor that exacerbates your fear or saps your energy.

        I wish you and your wall calendar much success.

    • I really like your emphasis on noticing your fears. Finishing can be so scary — once it’s finished it can be judged — but when it’s still “in progress” no one can tell me it’s terrible!

      I’m also SO guilty of running to the next idea without finishing the one I’m on. I recognize that, and so I often hire people to help me finish things. I write a terrible first draft, then have someone else clean it up for me. That frees me to start the next thing!

      Brad

      • You’re right, finishing can be a scary thing. Once your work is out in the world, everyone can see it and talk about it. It’s possible they’ll stay it’s terrible. But it’s even more possible they’ll like it, that it will help them in some way, or that it may even change their life just a little bit. If we don’t chance failure, we’ll never have an opportunity for success.

        I like the way you enlist others to help you towards finishing. I wish you much success with your writing projects!

    • Stan Rosen says:

      Thank you for your outstanding and insightful advice. I know it will help me with my future projects.

    • Evan says:

      Great article!

      One of my favorite tips to keep going on a project is to stop and walk away when you’re on a roll but you know you can’t finish in one sitting. Walk away even when you’re itching to keep going and overflowing with ideas. That way, it’s a lot easier to dive right back in later because you’re bursting to get it all down on paper. Compare that to stopping when you hit a wall, then trying to pick it up again later with absolutely no momentum.

    • Ivan Izo says:

      Great article Jessica. I think that explains why I sometimes find myself writing articles instead of working on my novel. Every article is a new idea while the novel is a long hard road. Well, a long road anyway. I do use “completion addiction” in my novel writing some by getting satisfaction from writing or revising each chapter.

      I’ve managed to get my articles to completion faster by reducing the revisions. At one time, I had five revisions per article and put at least a day between revisions. With at least 10 articles in progress all the time, it seemed like I hardly ever finished one. Now there are only three revisions: rough, the other four all at once, and a final revision before posting. Your post has me considering dropping my articles in progress down to five.

      Thanks for the post.

      • Ivan, I can see why your revision process could give you the feeling of never completing a post. Dropping your articles in progress to five sounds like a very good idea – helping you speed up the process without losing the revision method that’s working for you.

        I also like the way you derive satisfaction from revising each chapter of your novel. Novel revisions can seem endless, so chapter breaks are a great opportunity to feel a little high of completion.

        Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

    • Useful article, but this web-biased, web-reader-oriented paragraphing style always bugs me off. I find it difficult reading paragraphs these too many and unnecessary paragraphs.

    • julie says:

      Thank you Jessica, you would not believe how many projects I have in my ‘unfinished’ folder. I guess it;s just that little f-word again, but really we should use our fear wisely, as in –

      F – Face It
      E – Eliminate it
      A – Act against it.
      R – Rip it into tiny little shreds.

      Lots of great comments here also, from some very insightful people.

    • Gary says:

      I manage a lot of sites, and sometimes, it can just become so overwhelming and paralyzing when I think about the amount of work to be done. I really need to implement something like this, otherwise, I’m starting to feel burnt out and unmotivated. I’ve always had professional ADD – the need to work on a new project regularly, but I feel it is getting to a point where I need an offline project just to get me away from my computer half the day. Until then, I’ll try your tips. Thank you, Jessica!

      • Thanks for your comment, Gary. As someone who has had experience with chronic fatigue and burn out, can I just say *please be careful with yourself*? Loss of motivation and overwhelm are warning signs that your body and mind aren’t coping with your current level of activity.

        I hope the tips in the post help you bring down some of that overwhelm and that you’re able to find an offline project that will provide you some relaxation time.

        All the best.

    • Oooo! I love this article! I’m a Idea AND Completion junkie! My head is always swimming with new ideas and I find that if I mindmap them out and pick out the ones that I feel have substance, then I add those into Asana (online project management tool) and make the tasks as small as possible so I can have the satisfaction of checking them off. It also helps to keep me focused.

      I had a huge ah-ha moment while reading this. The realization that we jump from one project to another because we are running from our deepest fears is so eye-opening and yet makes so much sense! Thank you for the brilliant insight. I needed this to help me face the bigger projects I’ve started and have been avoiding. Now I know the real reason why!

      • I love your method of mindmapping out your ideas and then choosing! Sometimes our ideas sprout up like baby carrots and we have to thin them out to allow the strong ones to grow.

        Realising that fear was causing my idea addiction was an eye-opener for me too. I’m so glad I could share that point with you. I hope it helps you make further progress on your bigger projects and provide you with a completion high.

    • Major Milton Edwards says:

      Absolutely brilliant! You have definitely hit the mark – impressive.

    • Alexander says:

      A timely post as I have just passed a million draft words and I am starting out on a major self edit. Probably about 20 to 25 books in various stages of completion. Short stories are fine, but the longer books for me take so much time to reach a good level of satisfaction. I will have to consider and take advice in the post.

      Alexander

      • Wow, Alexander. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on! Longer books definitely take extra time to polish up to completion.

        I hope this post is able to help you methodically bring all your million words to completion. 🙂 I wish you success on your road to publication.

        • Alexander says:

          Some days … most days I am methodical but others creative and undisciplined when I produce my best writing. A balancing act for sure.

          • Undisciplined days result in my best writing too!

            The thing I love about ‘balancing acts’ is that in order to balance you need to always be adjusting (just like a tightrope walker). That means it’s a continual process. Balancing is not the act of standing still, it’s the act of finding the best position for yourself in that moment.

    • I am pleased to come across this life changing writing stuff. This has given me lease of enthusiasm to pursue my writing career with more vigour. Thumbs up to write to done crew.

    • I’m blessed that my drafts come fast and my hands itch to keep at it, though I do break around 25k words to do some plotting. Unfortunately, finishing that draft brings a feeling of let down, so I had to learn to create the reward system. Six novels written. So far so good. 🙂

      • Congratulations on your six novels, Robyn!

        Can I ask, what causes your feeling of ‘let down’ at the end of your drafts?

    • Surinder says:

      Excellent! —————

    • Frank says:

      Do not follow the advice to envision the satisfaction of completition of the project. Your unconsciousness will not differentiate between the real and imagened and you may not get the energy to start or go on.
      (to be find in 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Nature, by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, and Barry L. Beyerstein (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).

      • Thanks for expressing your concern, Frank. I appreciate you adding your comment to the discussion.

    • George says:

      The only problem I have with this post is that this process is a great idea for completing any project not just one involving writing!

      Once that motivation is hard it is so hard to find a way to keep going. When you do sit down and continue on a project, without that motivation its easy to feel overwhelmed with how much left you still have to go.

      I like what you said about how being addicted to the feeling of completion can help you remain calm while you work. In other words, when you get into the habit of seeing things to the end, you stop worrying about how long its going to take to finish it. Slow and steady, you chop away and you just get there.

      This was great to read, thank you!

      • Motivation is indeed the key! By becoming a Completion Addict, your motivation is the drive to reach the completion high.

        I like your point about “when you get into the habit of seeing things to the end, you stop worrying about how long its going to take to finish it.” Completion takes *time* and therefore patience. Getting rid of that ‘worry’ and just ‘chopping away’ at the project steadily really does make a difference.

        Thanks so much for your contribution to the discussion!

    • Marcy McKay says:

      Interesting post, Jessica. I have friends who are “idea addicts” who’ve also admitted that part of their problem is FEAR. They’re afraid that…(fill in the blank: they won’t ever find a literary agent for their book, that magazine won’t like their idea, etc.). So, they believe they’re sparing themselves pain because they don’t risk themselves and follow-through to completion. What do you think?

      • Marcy, the examples you provide are very common. The fear is our brain’s protective mechanism kicking in. It sees the potential for mishap (hurt feelings, disappointments) and believes the best thing is not to try at all.

        Perhaps your friends are sparing themselves the pain, but they’re also preventing themselves from any chance of succeeding. In the end, it comes down to what the person values the most.

        If they would prefer to live without the stress of putting their work out into the world, then that’s fine. But if getting their writing published is something they really want, then they’ll need to find a way to tackle that fear.

        A good place to start is this Write to Done post about how fear makes a goal meaningful:
        https://writetodone.com/how-fear-helps-you-to-write-better/

        The next step after that might be finding a writing coach or creativity coach to help work through the fears individually.

        Thanks for asking such a great question, Marcy.

        • Marcy McKay says:

          Thanks for the fantastic response, Jessica + the other great post on that hairy beast FEAR! Best of luck to you….

    • Patrick says:

      Good idea. My problem is getting zero time to work on my writing. I am surprised I had enough time to scan this article (not read it) and I found the opportunity to come back and finish this comment (after being interrupted). I guess that would be my first small success!?!? Hooray!

      • Congratulations on your success, Patrick! 🙂

        Finding time to write can be very difficult with a busy schedule. However, we often find time in our schedules (no matter how busy they are) for the things we feel are important.

        If you would like to spend more time writing, perhaps changing your mindset towards your writing would help. Instead of viewing it as something you would ‘like’ to do, see it as something you ‘need’ to do. Then you’ll be more likely to carve out the time (perhaps by getting up half an hour earlier or missing a favourite television show) to fill that need.

        Do you think that would be helpful in your situation?

    • Mike Michelsen says:

      One of the most useful postings about professional writing that I have ever read.

      If you ever plan to stop this website, please let me know, I want to make a copy of every post there is.

      Thank you.

      • Thanks for the compliment, Mike.

        Have you downloaded a copy of Write to Done’s ‘The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing’? It’s packed with lots of Write to Done’s best articles. There are more details at the top of the page.

      • Vinita Zutshi says:

        Mike, it’s lovely to know that you enjoy Write to Done so much. All our posts are available to you and everyone else at all times.

        The love we get from our readers spurs us on to keep going.

        Good luck with your writing!

        Vinita

        Vinita Zutshi
        Guest Post Editor, Write to Done

    • Janet says:

      Fantastic article – “idea addict” vs “completion addict” is applicable to so many areas of life, not just writing!

      • Very good point, Janet! I suppose you could use it on anything from gardening to world travel. 😉

    • Galen says:

      Great post! I always find myself starting projects and then dropping them. I like how you say “finishing” is a learned skill so that you can teach yourself to finish everything you start and become more productive in the long run.

      • Galen, I can totally sympathize! For the longest time I’ve also started projects and then left them unfinished. It was a revelation to me that I could *learn* to do it differently. Now I’m working through my projects one at a time.

        I hope this post is able to help you bring more of your projects to completion. 🙂

    • “How do you keep yourself focused and energized to complete your projects?”

      I try and identify where my motivation for previous projects came from (it could be a monetary motivation or a personal one). I then try to recreate that motivation in the present project.

      As a result, I like to keep a daily journal in which I keep a track of how I am feeling about current projects. It is a great way to discover your past motivations.

      • I love your idea of keeping a daily journal to track your motivations. It would also be a great way of tracking reoccurring thoughts or events that slow you down or unsettle you.

        I know I personally don’t always pick up on things that negatively impact me until I notice a pattern over weeks or months. Thanks to your comment, I think I’ll start adding those things into my journal writing as well!

      • My writing time feels like my days, constantly moving and adjusting to what the moment brings, and very much like my day job. Distraction, disorganization and chaos abound often. It is what it is, so I’ve taken to sticking to one project at a time and WRITING a highly specific goal list that keeps me grounded and a bit better focused. That list also helps with what you’ve discussed here, feeling the “high” of getting mini goals accomplished.

        BTW, I certainly wouldn’t mind the “let down” one commenter made re:finishing another first draft. Could be that author is not a fan of the editing and revision process, which I happen to really enjoy.

        Joanna recently posted: http://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com/type/aside/

        • Joanna, I’m very similar. My days are constantly changing depending on where my Creativity is taking me and how my health is holding up. I too write a goal list for each day for two reasons. 1) Because it keeps me focused. 2) Because I *love* the feeling of striking something off my list when completed. If I complete an additional task, I’ll often write it on my list just so I can strike it off. (Is that cheating? I’m not sure.)

          If you enjoy editing then I take my hat off to you. Many writers I know hate that part of the writing life.


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