There’s a moment when you finish a project that feels extraordinary. It comes at you, wraps you in a hug, and gives you endorphin high. But that high isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.
The moment is magical, but it’s also one that you shouldn’t focus on. There is still other work to be done.
When I started writing I lived for that high. I’ve written 11 novels, ten novellas, and hundreds of short stories.
I did this by focusing only on that high. Only on finishing. What I failed to learn, until recently, was that I wasn’t finished. The editing would come after the finished first draft. But for the longest time I didn’t edit, which is why I have so many novels written, but none published.
I chased the high of finishing that first draft, but I didn’t have follow through. I stopped at the gates of what I wanted and moved further away from my goals, all by ignoring what needed to be done.
In the last year and half, I learned that editing matters. Yes, I know you’re all staring at this like, “no shit!” Well, I didn’t care then. I wanted that high of getting to the next “finished” novel.
When I sat down last year, during the lock-down and stared at all that I’d accomplished, it wasn’t shit. Yes I have my short story collection, but I published that afterwards. It came as a result of this talk I had with myself. It counts, but only as me telling myself that I had to publish something before my 45th birthday.
The collection needed work and I’ve gone through a couple of more rounds of edits with it. While it’s out there, no one is reading it. I understand the reasons for this.
I haven’t pushed it as much as I should. I didn’t market it, and because of that, I’ve sold about ten copies. But I understand what I did wrong with that collection. I know what to fix when I publish something else.
All of the above came as I progressed as a writer.
I know that a book isn’t finished when the first draft is written. I understand that working on a book means editing.
There are moments when I don’t want to edit. There are many moments when the time I’m spending feels worthless.
Oftentimes submitting feels worthless, but I do it because it’s part of progress. It’s part of writing, and I have to keep writing.
We progress a little at a time. Sometimes we progress dramatically, but we must progress. We must move forward.
My high school English teacher used to say that a project is never perfect, but it’s “done.” You can’t do any more with it to improve it, and any more work on it will only make it worse. When you reach that moment, it’s “done,” and it’s a different sort of high from the high of finishing a first draft.
I like that high about as much as I like the high of finishing a first draft of a novel.