Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Commitment

Writing is hard.

It just is.

That is why commitment is so important. If you start something, I think it is important that you try your hardest to finish it. I have been writing as a hobby for 6 years. In that time I have written some good stuff … and some not so good stuff. Despite the bad stuff, I pride myself on one particular statistic:  I have only ever stopped writing two pieces before they were finished.

For me this is important. The satisfaction of completing a piece of writing is one of the greatest feelings one can feel. The knowledge that you have crafted characters, worlds, civilisations, emotion, and more with just words. Since I joined writing.com, I have uploaded all but one of my stories. The reason is I get a thrill from knowing that someone, somewhere, has read those words and been transported to a world of my creation. What more could a writer wish for … apart from publication? However, if you don’t finish you leave yourself with half a world; a character left in endless turmoil; a civilisation, yet to defeat the evil wizard.

The decision to stop writing the two pieces was a tough one to make. The first one I stopped was a Christmas story that would be a sequel to one of my short stories. I stopped because I never really started. The feel was too different from the first story and my ability as a writer was not up to the level it needed to be to do the story justice. I wrote a different Christmas story that year that was, in my opinion, very good.
The second was more recently. I was entering a short story contest, but realised the story I was writing required me to write in early modern English for much of the dialogue. Without extensive support, I would not have been able to write it. Instead, I wrote a different story with a completely different plot and cast.
Both times, I stopped writing because I didn’t have the skills to do the story justice. I also kept copies of the stories I stopped; one day I may restart them with new skills and a fresh mind.


With the exception of those two cases, I have never given up on a story. I have seen them through to the bitter end, and this has done me so much good. The skills I learn from just sticking at it are unexpected. I learned how to craft a good magic system by sticking at a story I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish, for example.

This article is not just about personal commitment to personal projects. It is about commitment in writing in general.

Writing competitions are set up by people. They don’t just exist for the writer. People have committed themselves to running a contest. They will have taken the time to create and manage everything to do with that contest. This takes time and commitment.

If you tell somebody you will enter a contest, it is important you do your best to fulfil that commitment.
For example, the contest I entered I honestly thought I would not finish in time for. But I stuck at it, working long hours writing words then deleting them and writing some more. I finished it. It could have turned out better with more time, but for the time I had produced work I was proud of. I submitted it. I fulfilled my commitment to the competition and paid £7.00 for a critique as well.

I had asked the competition owner a number of questions. He took the time to respond, in full, to every one of them. Had I not stuck at it, his time answering my questions would have been wasted. The questions were not to help my writing in general, but were specifically about the contest. I guess each response would have taken him five minutes to write.

Imagine if fifty people each asked him three questions that took five minutes to answer. That’s 12.5 hours’ worth of writing. Now imagine none of the fifty people entered. That’s now 12.5 hours wasted.
Commitment isn’t just about sticking at things and keeping promises. It is also about consistency. I have written an article every month for 19 months.

Of course, I do sometimes fall foul of my own rules to commitment. The Magician’s Tattoo is something I have been working on for two years now and I’ve only written 5 chapters, all of which are about to undergo major changes. In this case, it is a lack of direction that has prevented me from really getting going with the project.

I hope this has shown how commitment is not just about continuing to work on something, but also about doing what you say you’d do for contest owners and doing something consistently.

Hope this helps,
Matt B

Also available on WDC

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