This is one of my horror-words, a word that sits up in the corner, folds its arms beneath its long stern face,and taps its legs impatiently on the floor to the tune of some song that I, no matter how hard I try, am never going to learn. Then, suddenly,when it is tired of tapping, it will morph into a bratty six year old and blow a rasberry at me, going "Nyah nyah nyah nyah, you are NEVER going to finish that stuff."
I currently have four books, lying about in various obscene states of incompletion, one of which is a poetry collection that hasn't even gotten to the "This looks something like a manuscript" stage, so maybe I won't even count that one. Okay, so that only leaves three. And one of those is still pretty much in my head, so I won't count that one either. Well, that only leaves two. Not so bad I guess. Now, the question is: which one of these two do I want to procrastinate on the most?
Actually, despite my ongoing war with the completion demon, I know I will eventually finish at least one of these projects, and quite possibly all of them.
But it took me years to even get to this point. I was well over 30 when I finally began to get ruthless with myself. "You are either going to finish this stuff and publish it," I said, "or you are going to toss it." So out came dusty ten and fifteen year old manuscripts, shuddering from my ferocious editorial glare, that either went into the trash bin or into those brown manila envelopes people used to use before the internet. And it worked. Some things got tossed, and some things got published.
Later, when I was supporting myself as a freelance journalist, I learned that things either got finished, or I didn't eat. The trick was to bring that same sense of urgency to fiction and poetry writing, but somehow fiction and poetry writing began to feel like' time off' from 'real work', with all the luxurious traps of having time off, like, uh, I think I'd rather go to the beach today.
However, I have learned that all artists and writers have their own way of completing things. (Or not.) Some people are extremely focused, laboring intently on one project until it gets done, then starting the next one. My own process, in art as in writing, has always been to be working on three or four projects on a time, like a bunch of kids being raised in one big, happy but chaotic family.
Eventually, you have to let them all go out on their own.