How to finish what you start (curing the curse of the creative)

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If you’re a creative solopreneur, chances are you have started started a lot of projects in the past… without actually finishing many of them. How to finish what you start is a struggle many creatives want to overcome, and in this post, I introduce 5 simple steps to stop wasting time and finally finish what you start.

How to finish what you start (curing the curse of the creative)

[if you're too busy to read the entire post, you can just listen to the audio above]

Don’t you love it when you get a GREAT idea?

You get so excited and hit the ground running to make the idea come to life. You can see it so clearly!

This is gonna be IT!

You’re working on the project relentlessly and with so much gusto you can barely sleep. But eventually… something shifts. Sometimes you lose steam because of lack of accountability or support, but sometimes it’s because…

You slowly lose interest…

Mmm, yes. Has this ever happened to you?

Maybe you come up with a new “better” idea that totally takes over your whole vision. You convince yourself that the original idea is not worth your time anymore, at least not right now. I mean… after all, this new idea is really going to be IT this time and it’s just sooo much better than the first one.

You get excited. You can already see it. It’s gonna be so amazing. And soon enough, you are so enveloped by this beautiful intense creative energy that you want to do nothing but work on it day in and day out. Ahhh, yes. The sweet feeling of making stuff happen.

If you’re a creative entrepreneur, you might relate to this honeymoon stage of your “new idea love affair.” I like using this metaphor because when you really think about it – starting a new project is like falling in lust. (tweet this)

It’s exciting, emotionally and energetically arousing, and it’s infused with that giddy feeling of novelty (aka “that shiny new thing”). If we’re really excited, we might even get obsessive about the project and want to do it 24/7. In those beginning stages, we may be so blinded by the excitement and novelty that we often don’t pay much attention to potential negatives, obstacles, or challenges we may soon have to deal with.

But then after a while, reality hits and we come back down to planet Earth. We might have no accountability or support to fall back on to finish the project or maybe we just lose interest and start something new instead. It’s hard to know how to finish what you start when it’s so common you barely notice it’s happening.

I can relate to this so much.

It seemed like a recurring theme for my life.

When I was a kid, I liked to draw comic books and come up with my own characters and story lines. I was a very creative child. I felt that powerful, beautifully creative, flowing energy cursing through my body so much that I was not able to keep up with it sometimes. I had idea after idea and they were all great! I wanted to do them all!

I drew so much that my mom was getting frustrated with having to buy me new notebooks to draw in all the time (haha, seriously, she just told me this!).

The thing is – I started a bucketful of comic books, short stories, songs, even mini-video series but I never truly finished any of them.

I’d get bored halfway through and come up with a new, better, shinier idea that captured my attention instead. And being the go-getter that I am, I went toward that new idea with full force, the old concept dissolving into thin air as if it never existed. After all, this new idea was better right?

You might already imagine what would happen next – halfway through finishing the first booklet of supernatural romantic trilogy, I got a new idea: The main character shouldn’t be a girl who falls in love with her savior anymore, it’s going to be a girl who saves the world and finds her long-lost sister instead. Genius! So I went ahead to do that one instead.

I had a dream of publishing a comic book series and I was gonna do it, damnit!

Clearly never happened.

As you can imagine, the pattern continued throughout my life.

I’d get so excited about a new idea each time but something would always eventually come in the way and I ended up never finishing any of it!

  • The comic book series I dreamed of publishing? Got one booklet done (and that’s a miracle within itself).
  • Those photography concepts I drew out in my inspiration book? Still sitting there, waiting to be executed.
  • The eBook I was gonna write about battling with anxiety? I finished one chapter. That was 2 years ago.

If you can relate to this, let me just tell you – there’s light at the end of the tunnel! You can learn how to finish what you start and you don’t have to waste time on things that aren’t meant to come to fruition.

Let me fast forward to today really quick.

I’ve created and finished several versions of websites for my healthy living blog, my photography website, and various others. I’ve written hundreds of articles, done numerous conceptual photo series and creative concepts, finished a stop motion music video I was planning to do for a very long time.

Although the motivation may sometimes go up and down, I now have the tools necessary to move through the mental blocks that may come up, so I can finish strong on each project I start, knowing that it will get me that much closer to my overall vision.

  • There’s that heart-warming satisfaction in having finished a project.
  • There’s that joy of knowing you’ve completed something you promised yourself you would.
  • There’s that immense sense of pride for having followed through and actually done it!

Those are amazing feelings and I want you to feel that too with your own business! It’s time you move it forward in your business (click here if you wanna see how to do it for free) and actually finish what you start, especially when you know, deep inside, that it’s aligned with your vision and mission in the world.

What is really going on here?

Why can’t you finish that damn project?

Going back to that metaphor of starting a creative project being like falling in lust. Notice that I say “lust” rather than “love.” I believe that lust is that initial attraction (you wanna jump their bones every second you’re with them) and love is something deeper and longer lasting than that, it’s more intellectual and it comes from deep inside, hitting you right there.

As I said before, the new project usually comes with that wave of seductive enveloping energy that leaves you wanting nothing else. (tweet this) A lot of times, however, (especially as a creative entrepreneur) you don’t think about the idea from a strategic or realistic approach, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I love that initial lustful feeling over an idea or project because it’s one of the places that passion is born.

HOWEVER, after a while we start to notice the amount of work that is actually required to get this completed. Time passes, and it’s taking longer than we thought to accomplish the project and we notice the complexity of it that we didn’t see before. We realize we don’t know what to do next. It becomes overwhelming. We get stuck.

And it’s not to say that we are giving up. After a while, we simply put the project on hold and promise to get to it later as we make way for another idea to come about that sounds more exciting and satisfying than the work we need to do for the first idea to come to fruition.

Surely this is similar in a lot of relationships based on lust: you’re attracted to each other, so you start dating – but after a while, you notice there’s much more work necessary to make this work (you don’t like his style, or the way he walks, or his values don’t align with yours after all, or whatever) and you break up and move on to another shinier toy guy.

 

How to finish what you start in 5 easy steps

Alright, so you got that magical idea and you’re buzzing with energy to make it happen.  BUT before you jump head in first, let me take you through some things to make sure you spend your valuable time on something you can actually finish.

1. Become aware of your patterns

Do you find yourself starting and stopping projects a lot (like I did)? Before you go down that rabbit-hole again, I want you to spend some time to bring awareness to your patterns. Write down all the projects, books, and ideas you started on but never finished. Try to remember what happened around the time you decided to put it off and why. Do you see any patterns?

2. Why are you doing this?

Before you dive into that new idea, take a little while to ask yourself why you are doing this. Are you actually passionate about the topic or are you simply doing it because, eh, why not? What do you think accomplishing this project is going to do for you? Spend some time thinking about this and decide where this is coming from before you waste time on doing it only to stop halfway yet again. If you are really feeling strongly and passionately about this, move forward.

3. Connect with your purpose and motivation from within

To piggy back off the previous point, you also have to make sure that you are mostly driven by intrinsic motivation, or the motivation that comes from within rather than being influenced by the external world.

If you are driven by just money, fame, or validation, or anything else that relies on the external world or a superficial promise, you might get disappointed and frustrated when things don’t go as planned (tweet this)

Or that you don’t get to your goal as quickly as you thought you would (and you know what might happen when this occurs…)

However, if you are driven by intrinsic motivation, you are doing this because it is giving you personal satisfaction and you know that the project is connected to your overall vision and purpose in life, you are then more likely to actually enjoy the entire process, no matter how tedious it could get. Then, if things don’t go as planned, you won’t get frantic, but you’ll use your resourcefulness to find solutions and continue moving forward to get it completed.

4. Research and be realistic

If the idea is something new to you, research to find out what goes along with the process. Trying to write a book? Figure out what you need to do, how long it might take, the process that goes along with it, and anything else you might have to do. Be realistic. You won’t be able to be the first person to write a book and publish the first draft. Ask some people around who have done it in the past and learn on their mistakes. Set realistic expectations and you won’t set yourself up for failure or disappointment.

5. Make a timeline and action plan

Remember the SMART goals, make a plan of action and make your goals realistic and achievable. Get some support and accountability to make sure you don’t get stuck behind mental hurdles. Create a timeline for when you think each step will need to be achieved. Specify what resources or time you need to allocate and get to work.

Your next steps:

Free Move It SessionsDo you feel overwhelmed or stuck in your business right now? Confused why your marketing isn’t working out the way you thought it would. Maybe you’re struggling with creating a launch plan for your program. Maybe you can’t figure out what to do NEXT – there is so much to do and you feel so behind you can’t help but get down on yourself… if that sounds familiar, I want you to take a deep breath.

This summer, I have put myself on a mission to talk to 100 entrepreneurs and solopreneurs about their business. My goal is to help each and every one of those people. Maybe that can be you too? I’d love to talk with you!

How it works: you schedule a time, we chat about your biz and your woes (totally casual and fun, and yay for picking my brain for free!), and you leave with one (usually more) action step to move forward in your biz. This call is totally pitch-free. I just want to help and see what my dear passion-bizladies are coming from to help me evaluate the programs I can put together in the future.

Think this would be great for you? Perfect! CLICK HERE to learn more and schedule a session!

I can’t wait to chat with you soon.

In the meantime, if you have any questions – don’t hesitate to ask. I’m here for ya!

13 Comments

    • Oh absolutely – applies to any project or thing you want to start… that you may not finish. Reading books, starting an exercise routine, anything! Glad you enjoyed the post, Carla.

      Reply
  1. This is the perfect article for me. My family even teases me, “Oh no, she’s found a new shiny thing!” These are great tips for me and anyone else that suffers from what we fondly refer to as “Shiny Syndrome.” I find staying focused on the task, creating clear goals, and making myself accountable helps immensely.
    Stacey recently posted…Dogs Bark Bakery Gourmet Dessert Treat Giveaway!My Profile

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  2. This is a very beneficial article. I, too, never finish what I start if it is a long term goal. Thank you for making me more aware of this. I need all the help I can get.

    Reply
  3. This is written for me! I am creative and have a million different projects that I NEVER FINISH. It drives me crazy. I’m finding I need to do LESS and connect with my purpose and that does help.

    Great website, happy to have found you!
    Terri | Sugar Free Glow recently posted…20 Questions with Rachel ElyakinMy Profile

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    • Happy to have found you also, dear. I’m glad this resonates. I totally know that feeling… it’s like, why NOT do a million things when they all sound so GREAT ;) haha. Glad you’ve realized how to get reconnected and more focused.

      Reply
  4. Oh, you get me. I feel like I’m doing better than I used to … pushing through when the going gets tough and something else sounds better, but it’s still a process. I think #2 and #3 are something I need to ask myself more – nice to see them spelled out like that!

    Reply
  5. Love love love this post and I can 100% relate. Not only do I have a long list of projects I started but didn’t finish, I also have a list of careers like that. I’m not totally sure what my pattern is, but I can definitely say that the things I dropped are those that I usually lose interest in because, eventually, I figure out that I’m doing it because I feel like I “should” or just because it’s easy for me, but doesn’t really bring me a lot of joy. I turned 30 this year and that stops now! I just recently dropped a project off of my to-do list that might have been a good moneymaker, but with the direction I’m taking my business, it just didn’t make sense. Time saved, on to the next awesome project (that I actually care about!)
    Victoria Klein recently posted…Sparking Creativity: Get Out of Your Head! (Thought Isn’t Everything)My Profile

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    • Woohoo you go girl! way to make a declaration of change! This makes me think a lot of Danielle Laporte and she talks about in her “Fire Starter Sessions” (we talked about it here) book about doing exactly that – dropping the things that could potentially lead to good money because they didn’t align… and she was happier in return!

      Reply

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