Finish the Job: 3 timeless tips

Unfinished projects are the bane of the creative type. Loads of ideas, but no time. It’s a common recipe for lack-of-success and almost-fame: papers pile up + a day flies by + we give up = end of story. Wait! Don’t stop there. Unfinished projects do not have to be the finish of you, or your inspired ideas. There is help to make it happen.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 17, Jesus says:
“I have glorified you by finishing the work you gave me to do.”

THREE TIPS to finish well:

 1. DREAM BIG, BUT THINK SMALL

FIND A STICKY NOTE. Write just 3 projects you wish to finish within the next 12 months. Write a DEADLINE beside each one. As a former journalist, I never missed a deadline. But as a freelancer working from home, I have no such thing to spur me on. I meander, pause and wander off to clean the floor, make soup, and buy new pens. My writing knows no urgency.

A project without a deadline is a hobby.

While open-ended projects pad my Idea File, I know they only heft to a gnawing feeling of Being Undone unless I fish them out of the Idea File and add them to the Deadline-To-Do pile. When I worked in a newsroom, I wrote 32 stories a week. Today, here at home in my lovely study full of sunshine and solitude, an idea can languish on my desk for years. To get anything done, I need deadlines.

Deadlines are important, but they don’t need to be big and scary. With the help of the humble sticky note, they can be small and manageable—as long as they’re visible. Sticky notes  have built-in visibility: they stick to my wall and meet my eye when I wander off track… they bring me back on task. They remind me where I’m going and help me get there.

Visible, regular reminders are key when it comes to meeting deadlines.

A deadline written on a bright pink sticky note in dark blue ink with an empty check-box beside it can be highly motivating—and doable! Plus, sticky notes are friendly and fun. They come in different colours, shapes and sizes. They make productivity fun! And as long as they deadline is doable, success is also a built-in advantage to this simple sticky-note deadline system. Reaching small goals and seeing them checked off one-by-one fuels me for the road ahead, keeps me on track and makes me want to (and believe I can!) FINISH WELL.

2. FIND SOMEONE WHO CARES

Writers need someone who cares about their work. A writing buddy. Someone to talk shop: “What are you working on?” “What deadlines have you set?” and my fave: “Do you want to go for coffee?”

We may not all be natural encouragers, but we all need to be encouraged.

My (not-so-secret) Recipe for Writing Success: a personal friend who reads (and likes) what I write + a small writing group who critiques my work + a large writing group that meets regularly to keep each other on track = a good shot at finishing well

3. KEEP IT PERSONAL

As much as I admire their work, what’s meaningful to writer Ann Voskamp or poet Malcolm Guite is not necessarily meaningful to me. You know what makes you happy—go for that! For some of us, it’s big-time fame and for others it’s a large-following of an on-topic blog. For some it’s a book launch of a recently published book of poems. For others it’s sharing the wisdom of the journey at a creative retreat. People have brands and images, but we are more than that.

You are more than a brand.

Writers (despite their persona, profiles and followings) are people first, with particular joys and frustrations. So, I think, that whatever ‘floats your boat,’ as my friend Janine says, is what’s important when it comes to creative success (e.g. Finishing Well). That said, I do believe in aiming high and bringing glory to your Creator along the way. Amen.