Finished vs Completed

In Jack Canfield’s (of Chicken Soup fame) The Success Principles he discusses the difference between finishing and completing. *Yes, I read self-help books occasionally. Quiet.

The argument goes something like this: finishing something is not the same as completing it. Basically, you can finish a novel and put all the words on paper and print it out and type The End. But is it complete? Has it been polished? Are all the kinks worked out?

You can have a stack of finished novels, but only one that’s complete will do you any kind of good.

I was thinking about stacks of ‘finished’ work recently. I pored through my computer files and looked at short stories that I considered finished. I debated within myself which ones I should call complete. Only two. Two out of a whole lot–and those were just the ones on my computer. The rest could definitely use some polish, others could use a jackhammer, some we should just ignore forever.

I also have two novels that are ‘finished’ and my third is in-progress-to-finished. The first one that I wrote is questionable at ‘finished’ even. The second one I am tired of looking at, though I know the solution for completing that one. The third one will need some close work for it to come off the way I want it to.

So here I am, a writer who is writing (see Progress post). But my work isn’t done. I haven’t been completing things. There isn’t much there over-all. (Trust me when I say it stings to write that…after having written sooooo much, learning that there’s not one big project complete is rather a downer.)

In the spirit of completion, I have determined my goals for the rest of 2010 and leading into 2011. First off, 2010: finish what I’m currently working on because that’ll get me ahead for CWC submissions. Being ahead of CWC submissions buys me time to complete my not-yet-completed projects. Including heavy revisions of short stories.

2011: Complete the pieces I finished in 2010. Including: FJR, La Llorona, and The Line. In that order.

Is there anything that you need to complete?

5 thoughts on “Finished vs Completed

  1. Everything. Seriously. I have nothing I can point to as “complete”. Not even the few that have been published.

    Good food for thought. Sounds like you've got some good goals set. Must go rethink mine.

  2. You're right, of course, but the only question is to know when it is 'complete'. I don't want to get caught in a feedback loop where I am forever rewriting and not completing.

  3. Marie-You're right, that's the tough part. There's definitely a fine line between knowing when it's complete and when you're just fiddling too much.

    I think that knowing what you want to accomplish helps with that, and I'm pretty clear in my head what I want these pieces to feel like when they're done. The reason I'm going back to them is because I know, in my heart of writing hearts, that they're not what they could be–and I'm pretty certain that I've figured out why.

    I think you said something pertinent to this discussion during dinner the other night–something about knowing when you have the skill level to complete a piece the way that you want to. For these pieces, I know I can finish them the way that I want. I'm not even gonna go into the pieces that involve a skill set I don't have yet.

  4. Yeah, I don't remember saying that but I do believe in being realistic about your own skills. And with Kacie's encouragement, I believe I have the skills to complete Darkwings with an addition she wisely suggested.

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