The friends and family who know me well are very, very familiar with my desire (and failure) to stop quitting projects. I have started and ended a million businesses, a billion blogs, and a trillion novels.
Yes. THAT MANY. No hyperbole involved whatsoever.
I’d like to think my parents/siblings/in-laws/teachers/friends/etc. think of me as bright, vivacious, inventive, original and motivated. They certainly do in my fantasies, where I’m accepting my Nobel Prize in Literature and they are smiling from the front rows, whispering amongst themselves about how bright, vivacious, inventive, original and motivated I am.
The truth is, while I’m sure those who love me do think those things sometimes, they’re also very familiar with my tendency to quit.
I know this confuses many of them, who work away at jobs day after day with which they are perfectly satisfied and thus have no need to stop quitting projects. People who are happy with a far less extensive variety of pastimes, and who don’t vacillate wildly between “I’m so doing this!” and “Of course that wasn’t going to work; how could I have thought it would?!”
One of my signature moves is to spend lots of time and effort planning a creative project and telling people aaaaalllll about it, only to quit the moment I get started. Yes, sometimes the very moment.
I’ll outline a book for a month, but stop writing in the first chapter.
I’ll research a new business idea, buy a domain name and load up WordPress, but never add content to it. I have a graveyard of domain names that would impress even the busiest Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
I’ll plan out a design business, create collateral for three months, launch it and rack up some clients, then have one bad experience and relegate the whole idea to the trash bin.
It’s not important whether all of my ideas have been good. Many of them have not. Many of them have been spectacularly bad, in fact, and very ill-suited to my nature or my talents.
The important point is that they can’t all have been wrong for me.
Sometimes I quit before I even began because I was intimidated our outright afraid. The ratio of projects I’ve quit to seen through is roughly 10:1, but the ratio of projects I’ve quit to those in which I could have been successful is more like 2:1. That means of the projects I quit, only half are a bad idea. The other half (4/10 actually) are decent ideas that I’m just leaving on the table. Because I’m a weenie.
The first step, if you want to stop quitting projects, is to understand why we do so. Which, frankly, is not that hard because, let’s face it:
It’s more fun to go out for the night than to stay in and sweat away at a literary labor, or to teach yourself to make fondant or to learn to use your brand-new DSLR. It’s more comfortable to stay at a day job than it is to launch a side project, no matter how bad you want that natural soap business. It’s less mentally taxing to keep the house clean than it is to create, well, anything really.
That’s why your lazy, cowardly id has such an easy time taking us for a ride. It speaks to the part of the brain that is already writhing unhappily in the foreground, completely obstructing the benefits brought to you by a project once you begin.
Take this blog post, even. When I sat down this morning, I wanted nothing more than to watch Gilmore Girls (I finally see what everyone is talking about!) and eat all the things.
Instead, though, I sat down to write. It’s two hours later. I’m really happy, and I see measurable progress. This is a better use of my time, and I’m super glad I didn’t quit before I began.
This is a better life, but it was not comfortable to get to this point. It’s really hard to stop quitting projects. At each step along the way, there was much gritting of teeth and taking of deep breaths and resisting of the urge to bake Breakfast Treat That Must Not Be Named.
Immediately upon starting a project, the destructive thoughts begin, and they try as hard as they possibly can to tear you down. It’s a lot to resist. You’re just one human, after all, with one caveman brain telling you to run far, far away from the things you fear.
This is good, though. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Every time you have a negative thought – #whygodwhy #makeitstop #idontlikethisandineverhave – try to celebrate. Just a little. Not a lot. No one expects you to enjoy the misery associated with creative work, but that misery is indicative that you are getting somewhere.
Too often, we quit before we can even get to that place of misery. Before we begin at all. This is, after all, the easiest time, when the idea is still nascent, when you’re not yet that attached to it, when the insurmountable (and at this point, often poorly understood) mountain of work ahead of you is easiest to cower before/blow off.
That’s when some no-more-excuses mental asskicking comes in. As in, you must kick your own ass.
Do it, and you’ll notice, bit by bit, that it gets easier to stick with things. Even when you don’t want to. Even when your desire to succeed can’t possibly compete with your desire to hide under the blankets and eat. Even when you feel like you’ll never be the kind of person who can stop quitting projects and just start getting shit done.
But you know what? When you work through all those feelings, you wake up one day and you discover … hey. You’re exactly the kind of person you want to be.
And it feels pretty awesome.
Feel better? Okay, now that we’ve got the pep talk about of the way, it’s time to learn to be the writer and project-completer you know you can be. Head to the Free Resource Library and sign up for free writing advice and more today.
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