I finish

“From the day I finally finished something, I’ve never had trouble finishing anything again. I always deliver. I always ship.”

— Steven Pressfield, Do The Work

Many of my posts here are about struggle and failure. This one is about victory. It’s about finishing, from the guy who never finishes anything. But first it’s about struggle and failure.

I can’t tell you how many novels I’ve started writing over the last twenty-some years. I can tell you how many I’ve finished. Zero.

And until two weeks ago, I’d never really finished even a single draft. Oh, I’d come close, even called one or two of those novel-length piles of words “finished,” but the truth is, to varying degrees, they never really were complete. After years of toil, what did I have to show for my efforts besides the snickered moniker Mr. Never-Finish-Nuthin'?

So two years ago, inspired in part by the Pressfield quote above, I set out with one goal: to finally, truly, no-doubt-about-it finish a novel.

But even then, completion of my first draft of The Traveler somehow slipped through the cracks. I’d started what was supposed to be some minimal tidying-up of the opening chapters, only to discover sometime later that I was cruising along in a new direction. It wasn’t the first draft anymore, but was it really a second draft? What did it matter—I was making steady progress.

Fast-forward a year and a half to December of 2022. The final chapters of this “second first draft” neared. Cue: moment of crisis. Cue: familiar doubts, fears, objections and enticements. With so many big changes slated for the next draft, why “waste” time finishing this one? Why not jump right into the exciting new stuff? I’ll finish that one. Cue: weeks lost to agonizing. Cue: final victory, in which I decide finishing is worth it in its own right.

Getting going again was slow, but momentum grew. The pieces started falling into place. By the beginning of March I was flying, all resistance forgotten. The last ten days were glorious, frictionless, free of doubt and self-criticism, not a moment wasted. Soon I had come to the denouement, then the concluding scene, then the long sentence that makes up the final image of the novel.

As I typed the last words, I felt a sudden chill, of the goosebumps variety, of high emotional pleasure. Wow, I hadn’t expected that. I sat there a moment, on the verge of tears of joy, soaking up the feeling of accomplishment, the culmination of two years of hard work and two decades of aspiration. I’d done it.

What a pleasure to have lived these final moments with my characters, to see their stories come to a conclusion! Why hadn’t I ever done this before? And having done it once, having experienced how it feels, how could I possibly fail to do it next time?

As I write this post, I’m in the middle of a short break. The job is not done. There will be more drafts, more finish lines to cross. And after The Traveler, there will be more novels—better novels, I expect—but there may be no other act of finishing as pivotal as this one. It proves I can do it.

It wipes away the old label.

I’m the guy who never finishes anything.

I finish.

©2008-2023 Aaron Baluczynski