Fear of Finishing

I am a procrastinator. I am a failed perfectionist. I cannot finish things, because finishing them means putting them out for review, and review deals with stuff that freaks me out like approval, disapproval, praise and criticism. In addition to coming from wild women, I also come from a line of people who are nearly incapable of praise, and downright professional at criticism. Even the slightest bit of approval must come with a dab of “but you didn’t.” To be fair, the last generation is making a concerted effort to focus more on the positive, but it is obvious by the strained and stilted manner in which this new praise is given that this tack goes against the grain of the wood from which my family is made. We are knotty pine, not tiger maple.

All of this is my way of saying that while I do not give a shit what the public say about me as a whole, I care very much what a select few people say about what I choose to create.

I mentioned that one of my new year’s resolutions was to write more, but what I didn’t say was that by “writing more” I meant: Write and finish more fiction, and then let someone who isn’t me read it. It is that “finishing” part that has always been tricky for me. I have countless files laying around my computer unfinished. Snippets of dialog that I overheard, ideas for stories left only as placeholders, half-stories written but never gone back to out of fear of. . . what?

That is the question: What am I scared of? That my fingers will type something on a blank page, thereby making it no longer blank, and that someone will ridicule me for that? Which is funny, because I have so much respect for those who put forth the effort in the first place to create something out of thin air.

I told Todd over beers a few weeks ago that I was actually enjoying writing again, and that I felt so much more confident because of what I had written on Dogwood Girl, and on Metblogs, and by merely clicking Publish and putting my words out into the ether for all to see. It has been freeing. Very rarely have I received a negative word about my writing and in a few instances, I have received praise that has done wonders for my confidence in my ability to string a few words together. I am eternally grateful to those who have bothered to say, “I liked that” or “well-said.”

All of this has worked to give me the push I needed to start writing again, and to really try to finish things. Then what? Well, I haven’t figured that part out yet, and really, I will just be happy to finish a project and let those few whose opinions I value see what I have been up to lately.

I just sent Todd a short story I have been working on the last month or so. His instructions: To print it out, without reading it, so that I can see my work in print. (We have a printer, but right now, we are too poor to buy new print cartridges for it, so we are mooching from his office. Cue King Missile’s Take Stuff From Work here.) I want to do an edit, and then I am going to start having some people look at what I’ve written. I am a little nervous about that, in the same way that I get nervous when I get a new haircut, or wear something that I wouldn’t normally wear.

I think I know what the problem with my work is, or at least what I fear the problem with my work is: I am a decent writer with nothing much interesting to say.

There. I have said it, so maybe when I hear that from others, it won’t sting quite as much. Or maybe since they have read it here, they won’t be scared to tell me the truth. Either way, this fear of finishing is something that I am conquering.

To do: Find new fear. I know I had one around here somewhere. What did I do with it? I just had it. . . .

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4 Responses to “Fear of Finishing”

  1. Anonymous says:

    All of my writer friends (or sisters-in-law, as the case may be) seem to be suffering from procrastination lately. Based on what little I’ve read of your writing (i.e. here), you have a gift for it (who knew?) and so I’ll hope you’ll get past the fear of disapproval and go for it.

  2. Dogwood Girl says:

    Thank you, oh anonymous one, who may or may not be one of my three brothers-in-law, which is kind of scary, because I didn’t know my brothers-in-law read Dogwood Girl, and . . uh-oh. Hope I haven’t written anything mean about you or hurt your feelings.

  3. Steph Bachman says:

    Google is conspiring against me, but still I try . . . for the third time.

    You are not a writer with nothing to say. Many of us check back every day just in case you happen to post.

  4. Dogwood Girl says:

    Thanks, Steph. Of course, now i feel stupid, because it seems like I was fishing for compliments. I appreciate it. I like yours, too, but you need to do the RSS feed thing. . . much easier on me to keep up with.

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