Do You Quit Right When You're Almost Done?

04/07/2015 03:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2015
Cameron Whitman via Getty Images

If so, you are not alone. I've done it a hundred times. Just when the piece is almost done, I put it away.

I've got a lovely handcrafted present sitting right here for my dearest darling sister that only needs some trim -- about 25 minutes worth of work after I've already spent, what? Maybe 15 hours on the thing. It's been sitting here since mid-October.

I once wrote an entire book in three weeks and then I put it on a shelf for 10 months. I actually sort of forgot all about it until a friend reminded me. Finally, I published the sweet thing (365 Reasons To Write) but it took me almost a year.

So what's going on here?

Fear? Probably.

As I've said many times, of course you're scared. Putting your work out in front of people is downright terrifying and it continues to be terrifying, even when you've done it a hundred times.

But I also think there's just some Hunter-Gatherer Brain Function going on: We're just so used to constantly looking for our next meal that we move on a bit quicker than we should. It's like part of our brain goes, "OK, so I know how that's going to turn out." And somehow that's the same as "done."

Same thing happens with clutter, I think. The brain looks at something and thinks, "Oh, yes, I know where that goes," and somehow equates that with the thing actually being put away.

But unfinished projects and clutter alike get underfoot, clog up the passageways and inhibit continuous improvement. So it's time to bring out the big guns.

First of all, as Matt Mullenweg (founding developer of WordPress) wrote in his (fabulous) blog post, "... if you're not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long."

And if you know yourself to be the kind of person who just might give up on something right when it's nearing completion, get yourself a friend like mine to nag you about getting your work out into the world. (OK, fine -- it was Dyana Valentine and it's well worth whatever she's charging to have her cuddle you, bully you and dig deep inside you until you finally live up to your full potential -- whatever that may be. But be forewarned: she's not going to let you get away with any of your usual funny business. She's kind of a white witch like that.)

Finally, remind yourself that when it comes to your own work, you are not the judge of its readiness nor its worthiness. It is only your job to produce the work. It is the job of the marketplace to judge it.

So here's the process:

1. Notice that sometimes you quit right when you're almost done and decide that you're ready to not do that anymore.

2. Prepare to be embarrassed.

3. Get a friend to cajole/bully/nurture you into getting it out of the house and in front of the people who might really go for it.

4. THEN move on to your next thing, OK?

Just for today, let's finish it and put it away where it belongs.