Finish Your Projects and Eat Your Vegetables

The best advice I’ve ever received is “successful artists finish the projects they’re working on”.

And the most frustrating advice I’ve ever received? You guessed it…

Finish your damn manuscript before hopping around to something else.

Sticking with a project when you have another, more exciting idea in mind is a bit like sticking with your PEAS and CARROTS when you can see the triple-layer forest chocolate cake with fudge cream and ice cream raspberry-vanilla-macaron-crunch ripple eyeing you down over your boring glass of vitamin water.

(Yes, I made that dessert up. Didn’t it sound deeeeee-licious?)

When I think about it, theoretically (because everything just sounds better when it’s in your mind versus when it’s in practice– kind of like yoga with goats), I think: hey, finishing your projects is a good thing. It teaches you perseverance. It teaches you that you can’t eat your dessert before getting through your protein and potatoes.

And if you’re a chronic manuscript hopper like me (this is why I used food instead of romantic connections for this example. It would’ve been too awkward), you’ll see the value in this. Stick with one thing.

Trouble is, I hate sticking with one thing.

It’s like reading a book you hate for class. Why am I reading about the battle that happened on this random date fifty-hundred-thousand-million years ago? That video game console looks so much more interesting, and if I manage to make it through that pixellated obstacle course under five minutes, I’ll…

Why do you finish that book?

The video game is fun. It’s new. It’s exciting. The book is dusty. It’s old. It has five million footnotes about the placement of the asterisk that nobody cares about. The book? It’ll get you grades, preferably good ones, for your class.

But not everything that’s new and exciting works out.

Say you act as a manuscript-hopper like me (oh, scandalous). Say you abandon that other manuscript for your NEW and SHINY idea.

Then, say you’re fifteen feverish pages into that new idea and…

Guess what, it got stale. It got boring. But it’s still not nearly as long as a feature-length-book. You’re still hundreds of pages to go, maybe thousands if you’re Tolstoy.

Then you get another idea.

And another.


You get the idea.

Finish your goddamn projects.

To succeed, one has to have some semblance of focus. You can become adequate in a thousand different things, but you didn’t see Mozart switching to knitting when composing got boring. Ever hear that to become an “expert” in something, you have to put a thousand-something hours into it?

Yeah, so stick with that project. Even if it sucks in comparison to that shiny, new idea, at least you’ll have one finished project before going onto the next.

Back to another food example.

Say you’re back in the kitchen again after eating your peas, carrots, protein, and weird ass raspberry cake. Say you have a recipe for cooking roasted tofurkey or something because you’re on a kale kick. Say the recipe calls for you to stick that bad soy, I mean bad boy, in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours.

Say you get impatient, ditch the tofurkey, and try to make cookies instead. Then you get a craving for cake, so you scrape the cookies off the tofurkey-cookie pan to put a cake on there. But then you want pizza, so you start from scratch and–

That’s a wasted tofurkey, cookie, cake, pizza concoction right there. You end up hungry and with nothing in the oven but a lingering smell of regret and self-doubt.

My point is this.


Oh, and eat your vegetables.

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