Aug 14, 2011

Eating the Elephant

By Wendy A. Jones

I am a starter.

I am not a finisher.

I have fabric and patterns; I have stacks of cardboard in my garage; I have plans drawn in notebooks; I have lists; I have ideas.

What I don't have are about seven dresses, three skirts, a cardboard sculpture of a tree, and/or upholstered storage boxes in my entryway.

I bought a book once because I didn't quite feel in control of my house. There was too much clutter, too many projects, too much stuff. I can't even remember the title. It was something like Mission: Organization. In the introduction, the author said, "The key to organization is finishing things."

I closed the book.

(I haven't finished it.)

I realized that was the skill I needed to figure out first. Before I could organize anything, I had to figure out how to finish things.

I'm pleased to say I'm getting better, but I still stink at finishing.

Take writing, for instance. I have been writing seriously for five years.


And I have yet to finish a novel.

(I did finish two picture books, though. I've got to throw bones to myself when I can.)

Why is it taking so long?

The reasons are many and varied. We all have our reasons, I'm sure, and some are perfectly legitimate.

However, I've realized this writing . . . thing, for lack of a better word, is something I want.


It won't leave me alone.

The words in my current WIP don't come easily. I have to drag them out of myself and shake them loose from my fingers--and it feels like half of the text is highlighted for me to come back and fix.


I will finish my book someday.

I will overlook the fabric and cardboard and notebooks of plans and look instead at the things I have finished: two skirts and two aprons and a blanket and a dress and a cabinet and some bookcases. And two children's books!

I do finish things.

I do.

It just takes me awhile.

I haven't written much through the summer; vacation and kids and gardens and a residential schedule and a new calling have made my schedule erratic to say the least. I kept a notebook tucked in my purse, though, and jotted things down when I was waiting for the dentist or sitting by the drain (my 4-year-old's current obsession). Not much, really, just a sentence here or there.

When I went to type it into my computer the other day, I was shocked and pleased to see the word count reach almost 1500 words.

If, over a couple of months, I can write 1500 words while not writing, how many could I write when I'm really trying?

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.




I'll let you know when I'm finished.


  1. Finishing a book is sometimes the hardest part of writing, especially for new writers. Keep at it. You can do it.

  2. You finished the blog entry so cross it off the list and congratulate yourself.

  3. I used to sew. I was good at it, and it's fun to look back in the photo albums and see my kids wearing clothes I made for them. At a certain point, however, it became oppressive because I was overly ambitious. I'd start projects and not finish them, buy fabric and make plans but not carry out the plans. Finally I decided to get rid of my sewing machine and all the fabric and patterns. I have never felt so free! Since then I have focused on writing and finished several novels. You only have 24 hours in a day and there isn't time to feel guilty for not meeting self-imposed deadlines on optional activities. One way to simplify is to move to a smaller house. We did that two years ago when we retired and to be unencumbered by excess stuff is the BEST feeling!

  4. My daily writing goal used to be 2000 words. When that proved to be a REALLY big bite, I shortened it to 1000. Later, to 500. When I'm on a roll, I can easily top 1000 words, but 500 is still a good bite out of that book. Any number you set for yourself, and keep at it, will guarantee it eventually gets done. :)

  5. Wendy, great post!!!! This is ME you are talking about.

  6. Love this post! Thanks for sharing your insight! Gave me a few things to think how to finish a few things! hugs~

  7. You are not alone. I have found that finishing is a skill I have had to specifically teach each of my four children - not a natural born finisher among them.

    And speaking of mothering - sometimes it's good not to be a finisher. We never finish being a parent. Certainly our relationship with our kids morphs again and again as they (and we) mature, but can you imagine how awful it would be if we ever 'finished' being moms?

    So sometimes, "Yay for not finshing!"


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