Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

I’m Not a Completionist

I learned some things about myself this weekend. Well, I can’t say it was a big surprise since I have been living with myself for 29 years. (Okay, I might be counting 29 more than once, but let’s just agree that it’s been a while.)

QuartI don’t have a great need to finish things. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 100, a recent personality test gave me a score of 17. Deadlines don’t give me a sense of urgency, especially if I set them myself. I borrowed an August 31st deadline to finish THE DREAMLESS CITY from Eric John Baker, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it. I hate to let someone down, unless that person is me…

Let’s go through some things in my life and see if this is true:

Number of video games completed in last 10 years – maybe 5?
Number of knitting projects completed in last 5 years – 2
Number of diets completed in the last 10 years – 1 (but who really ever wins at this?)

Number of short stories started this year – 3
Number of short stories completed this year – 0 (but one of them should be done in the next month)

Number of novels started in last 10 years – 4

  • Irminsol, the World Tree – fantasy (the best outline I have ever written)
  • Sheriff of Goblin Gulch – weird west (I have to write this eventually; I love it too much)
  • Chinatown Ghost Story – urban fantasy (my BA degree is in Asian Studies)
  • The Dreamless City – steampunk urban fantasy (my current WIP)

Number of children gestated – 2 WIN
Finished business school – 1 WIN

What do I do about my low completion rate?

CupSo now we know I have a problem with small- and medium-sized projects. I can keep my head down and get through the larger, life-altering ones. (Although finishing my novel would be life-altering, so why is this one so tough?) Maybe it is being held accountable by others instead of just by myself. I could be more organized, but I’m not completely disorganized in my writing process either.

Do you have any great articles to recommend me on how to up my completion rate?
Here are a couple that I have found:
How to Finish What You Start: A Five-Step Plan for Writers
Three Words to Help You Finish Any Writing Project

I also liked this simple article from the University of Washington’s graduate school:
Managing Large Writing Projects

Stop starting new projects… Gosh, that’s the thing I love to do best. I get real excited about a project, obsess on it for a week, then move onto something else new and shiny. I can see that I’m my own worst enemy. I need to just take a day, write everything down, and save it in a file for later.

Assess your projects and pick one… FOUNDRY MOTH to finish first, then back to THE DREAMLESS CITY.

Decide what “finished” will look like and set some milestones… Finished for me means ready to publish as professionally as my limited experience can manage. As for setting milestones, looks like I need to sit down with my calendar. ;) I like the idea of milestones more than deadlines, which as I mentioned above don’t do much for me. Sure, it might be a matter of semantics, but maybe this will help me get my productivity to the next level.

How about you? Do you have a burning desire to cross things off your To Do List each day? Are you like me, starting new projects without finishing your previous ones? What strategies do you have for finishing your projects?

8 comments on “I’m Not a Completionist

  1. Alex
    July 28, 2014

    Y’know, I was just wondering what happened with Foundry Moth the other day.

    • tracycembor
      July 28, 2014

      Yeah… that’s one of my biggest disappointments in myself. I just couldn’t come up with an ending that was satisfactory, and the pressure of writing on the deadline I set for myself didn’t help. I just moved on and didn’t say anything, which was a pretty loser decision.

      I’m cleaning up the Foundry Moth and expanding parts of it. I have been going to a critique group every other week and letting them read 5 pages of key sections. I also have a wonderful new critique partner, L. Palmer, who is doing some awesome and insightful edits for me.

      Once it is finished, it will be my test experience to self-publish on Amazon. I’m hoping to have the story polished up by end of August, and maybe on Amazon by Sept.

      I’m also trying to think of how I can tell people who read the first part where they can do to finish it. Any thoughts?

      • Alex
        July 28, 2014

        Oh, hey, yeah, I follow her blog, too. Great stuff, the L. Palmer Chronicles.

        I totally feel you on dropping projects (as you’ve probably noticed, it’s been around a year since I put up a new Encyclopedia Entry at Cirsova). I was actually inspired to do something similar to what you did with Foundry Moth, but never did since I figured I didn’t have the traffic to support it.

        Easiest way to tell people who read the first part is to just go ahead and tell them here. Most people don’t unfollow blogs that go through long inactive periods, so I’m sure anyone who was following you then is still following you now (and glad to see you back), so just tell them.

  2. coldhandboyack
    July 28, 2014

    I have to do one at a time. Work gets to stress me out with multiple projects and deadlines. I won’t do that to myself.

    • tracycembor
      July 28, 2014

      Work stress gets to me too. Some evenings I’m unable to unplug my brain from the office. Those are the nights I just read a book or go to bed early. It’s much healthier than trying to teach a pig to sing.

  3. Green Embers
    July 28, 2014

    You sound exactly like me. Not even a little bit different, but exactly. Love coming up with new ideas but seeing them through to completion, yeah doesn’t happen. My blog really has been the longest thing I’ve had going in my life. I think what is helping me now, is time management. I actually scheduled time for my different hobbies each day of the week.

    The other big thing I lack (dunno about you) is how to deal with the small problems, I can usually break up the big goals or problems into smaller problems which is good, but I kind of get bored working on such small problems. Too many interests and not enough time.

  4. ericjbaker
    July 28, 2014

    Believe me, that August 31st deadline is looking uglier every day. I need the fear of public shaming to drive me on. I think I can make it. but them I have to do a third draft. Perhaps the “beyond” frightens us. Finishing it, polishing it, editing it, querying it, wondering why we spent all those countless hours and weeks and months on something that earns us negative dollars and no one cares about.

    And this is the cheerful version of me!

    Seriously folks, I have completed two novel manuscripts and a pile of short stories, and I did record an album, so I guess I can finish things. I frequently wonder what it all adds up to, though.

  5. vlsperry
    July 31, 2014

    Thanks for the links!

Comments are closed.


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Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.