This post is dedicated to all of those writers who are so close to the finish line and have a funny way of finding an entirely new project to do when they’re super close to completion.
But first I want to ask you: How long have you been working on your memoir:
A year? Five years? Ten? Twelve?
How much longer do you have to go before you can say that draft is done? Or rather, I should ask – how much longer do you THINK you have to go on it?
How fear shows up when you’re writing a book
A funny thing happens when we get close to the end of a major project. A project that could completely change our lives, that could transform our relationships, catapult us into that esteemed position of ‘author’ that we claim to have been wanting for aeons, that could see us having to Turn Pro and learn how to hold ourselves in agent and editor and publisher meetings, or even send our author bio out there for all the world to see….Or that simply means we’ve done that thing we never thought we could do, so we’ll have to completely reassess everything we ever thought possible before. Spoiler alert: you’re capable of more than you know.
What do we do?
We flee the scene of the crime in whatever way is our preferred distraction method.
We book a ticket to Mexico. We tear down the house (or throw out the oven, as was the case for one writer I knew. She then had to get ANOTHER oven, and get it installed… oh dear). For me, two weeks away from completing my writing degree at RMIT in Melbourne, I packed up my entire life and heave it into my car within the space of four hours.
Why does the sabotage show up near the end of the draft?
Nearing the end-point of something often sees us sabotaging ourselves and heading for the biggest distraction we can find. We do this because failure is much easier to digest than success. How so?
Success demands a lot more of us than failure. I saw this in a big way when i launched my online course to the world last year. When people started to jump into the course and purchase it, it meant I needed to show up in my life in an entirely new way. It meant I could no longer take the easy option and say to myself “oh no-one wants it so at least I tried”. They wanted it alright. But that meant I needed to constantly (and consistently) measure and improve on the thing that had taken everything out of me just to get to that point! Just like a book. The first draft is only the beginning. When you start to query, that’s a whole new set of skills and confidence you’ll need to build!
Why mindset matters
I listen to a lot of self-development podcasts and read a lot of books about the psychology of habit, and human potential. It’s an interest of mine, ever since I wrote freelance in my twenties and noticed that the more I worked on my internal beliefs, my daily habits and strove to constantly uplevel – the more I got published. It was astounding, really. This showed me that mindset mattered more than the number of pitches I wrote for stories (although sure, I needed to pitch!). But what you can take away from this is one question to ask yourself, if you come to the end of a project and quit just before the finish line.
Ask yourself: Why am I afraid of success?
Most probably, it’s the fear of the unknown: you know this quiet internal struggle of the drafting process. you just don’t know how the successful sale of your memoir will look and feel. And that’s ok.
Here’s what to do next:
- Actively look for positive examples of memoir writers who have finished
- Always focus on the next step – don’t get overwhelmed by the entire process. One bite, one step at a time. Finish the draft first, before you worry about pitching it or what your relatives will think when it’s a movie!!
- Search out answers to the questions you have about the process
- Search out mentors for your ideal outcome (ie. a published memoir!)
- Seek support from positive examples in your writing field
- Consider the best case scenario
- Find something personal that matters to you, that represents the best thing that could happen with your book and use that as a visual and psychological anchor to get you over the finish line
- Follow a step-by-step process to write and finish your memoir which includes mindset techniques, craft and structure advice, writing routine advice and next steps upon completion of the draft (I recommend my program 90 Day Memoir, but I’m biased).
I’m guilty of all the distractions, which is why I always advise getting a writing mentor who has actual experience in the specific genre that you’re writing in.
What prompted me to post this was a memoir coaching client who told me her goal was to finish her draft by Christmas. This lovely lady had been working on the draft for ten years and only had one chapter to go.
I asked her (as kindly as I could) if she could finish that chapter within the week, which she resisted, at first. I remained silent and let her get her excuses out into the verbal world where she could hear how silly they were. Truly, I did nothing but listen – having her say them out loud was what produced the transformation!
Three days later, she was finished. With the memoir draft that had taken a decade. Do you know how liberated she felt? I could feel the relief and the joy in the message she sent me when it was all finished.