The Finish Line

Two things are critical to your art.

Starting It and Finishing It.

This is just my opinion, you understand. Different pen strokes for different folks. IMHO, YMMV, LMFAO, and all that. But really, the more I contemplate it – the more I look back on my career, and look ahead to what may be coming – the more I think these basic “Start” and “Finish” thingies really, really work, for me.

Yes, I’m possibly, ever-so-slightly, heck-he-couldn’t-really-be-SERIOUS oversimplifying a skooch. But only a small skooch. Obviously, the Middle bit of anything is important – imperative, even, you might say. But you don’t get a Middle without a Start, and you won’t know it’s the Middle until the Finish. Heck, without a Finish, you may be on page 128 before you realize you simply have an extraordinarily ambitious Start. And if you’re getting paid by the word, more power to you. But back to the basic premise. START. Then, make sure you FINISH.

Much has been said on the subject of Starting. I’ll try not to rehash it here, but pretty much everything boils down to Just Do It. There. We’ve started. Good.

Now, let me speak for just a second on the subject of The Finish.

I was at a convention recently (to protect the innocent, we’ll call it ONvergence-Cay), at an “Overcoming Artist’s Block” panel.

(I have some friends who are Artist’s Block Deniers, but I tell you it’s real. Much like driving in Australia surrounded by kangaroos, I occasionally hit one. Hence I saw the panel as my own potential personal Roo Bar: I was looking forward to using bits of it to control the damage.)

My co-panelists represented a range of professional experience, from None At All through Successful Semi-Pro to One Of The Tops In The Field. And they were Great and Mighty and Interesting. Their differing experiences produced many varied and useful answers. What works for one person may not work for another, and listening to others’ takes on beating Artist’s Block was fascinating.

Until one particular question came from the audience.

“Should I just wait for inspiration, to finish the piece I’m working on?”

“Yes,” said one panelist, just out of college. “You must wait for it. You need to love your work. You must fly with it. Also, you must hug it and pet it and squeeze it and call it ‘George.’”

I’m paraphrasing here, mostly as I fear I quit writing things down at this point. In large part because I believe my heart stopped.

No.

No, I said, again (and I really do hope I didn’t say it rudely, but I said it rather a lot in the next five minutes, so…apologies just in case). NO!

No, no no, no no! You do not “wait for inspiration,” You FINISH THE PIECE. Then you move on to the next piece. Then the one after that, then the one after THAT.

You can go back, you can re-do, you can touch up, you can revise, but you never, ever, EVER put a piece down, and just wait for inspiration and rainbows and unicorns. You work on it. You sketch and draw and write and re-draw and re-write and you drink coffee and if you smoke (and you really shouldn’t smoke, you know) you smoke and you obsess and eventually you pound it out and you FINISH. At a certain point, you may get good enough so that “pounding it out” begins to resemble “inspiration” to the outside observer, and lucky you, then.

But wanna wait for that Perfect Artistic Moment? Could be a while, Spanky.

Sure, you may never make mistakes in the meantime. But you’ll never grow, you’ll never learn from your mistakes, you’ll never move on, and I’ll put real good money down that you’ll never get that precious piece in the mail to an editor or in the hands of a loved one or up on that Etsy shop you so dream of.

And all this while? Other folks are finishing up their pieces. They may not be as good as you, but they don’t have to be. They finished. And they may have made a sale.

Don’t wait. Finish it off. Or finish something ELSE off. Just finish, finish, finish. And learn. And grow. And move on.

Don’t ever stop finishing.

Much like I’m doing with this column, now.

- John

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