Writing a Book: 3 Ways to Not Finish Your Book

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I don’t have any statistics to support this, but I think most of the people who start to write a book never finish the book. Some have good reasons, and some don’t.

Good Reasons Not to Finish Your Book

Steven started to write a book but stopped when he realized how hard it was. Writing a book looks like it should be easy, but it’s actually hard work that takes up a lot of time. Steven decided that writing a book just wasn’t worth the effort. That’s a good reason not to finish a book.

Jim had just started writing his book when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, he had to pick up some of the family chores that his wife had always handled. Caring for her took up a lot of his time. That’s a good reason not to finish a book.

Maryann was a successful consultant who decided to write a book. Her calendar was stuffed full of work and social activities. When she realized that she’d have to cut out some of them, and maybe even cut her income, to get the time to finish the book, she decided the tradeoff wasn’t worth it. that’s a good reason not to finish a book.

Those good reasons all have one thing in common. They involve decisions. In each case, a person decided that writing a book wasn’t the right thing to do right now. It was the wrong project, or the situation had changed, or the tradeoffs weren’t worth it.

That’s not what happens all the time, though. Many times, people start a book and don’t decide to finish it, they just don’t. There are three big reasons why.

Chasing Squirrels

My dog Toto loves protecting our house from a squirrel invasion. When she’s out in the backyard and spots a squirrel, she takes off after it. Then, halfway across the yard, she spots another squirrel and changes course to chase that one. But before she catches the second squirrel, she spies a third on the ground and alters course again.

A lot of writers are like that. They get a good idea and they start working on it. Then they come up with another idea. That idea sparks a third idea, and the third sparks a fourth, and so on. It’s human nature.

We all do it. But you won’t get your book done if you keep changing your ideas of what the book should be about or what should be in it. That’s hard for most people. We hate making choices between good things, but you have to do it if you’re going to complete a book.

Chasing Perfection

My friend Lucy got her master’s degree in English. Over the course of her two-year program, Lucy took an incomplete in every course where she had to write a paper. Here’s the kicker. She had all those papers done in time to submit them. But she always thought she could make them just a little better.

I’ve worked with clients like that. They see one more thing that they can do that will make the book better. The truth is, there will always be one more thing you can do. After you’ve published the book, you’ll realize there are things you could have done. But if you want to complete your book, you must make the decision that publishing an imperfect book is the best you can do and then do it.

Quitting by Degrees

Several years ago, we moved into a new house. As the movers were carrying some things upstairs, they damaged the wall and left a blue spot. We decided to fix it as soon as we’d unpacked.

Well, we were tired when we were done unpacking, so I decided to fix the wall the first weekend that I was home. That was a couple of weeks off. When that weekend came, I was tired from work and travel. I decided next weekend would be better.

You probably know what happened. When we moved out of that house, years later, the blue spot was still on the wall in the same place. I never made a conscious decision not to fix that spot. Instead, I made a series of decisions that put off fixing the spot until it seemed like fixing the spot wasn’t important anymore.

That’s how a lot of people stop writing a book. They can’t quite work out a chapter, so they decided to put the project aside until next weekend. Then next weekend, there’s something important to do, and they put it off again. And again. And again.

Bottom Line

If you want to write a book that you’re proud of, one that makes a difference in your life and in other peoples’ lives, it’s going to take work and commitment. You can decide that it’s the wrong project, or not the right time, or that the tradeoffs aren’t worth it. That’s fine. But don’t start a book with the idea that you’re going to do great things and then quit writing without making a conscious choice.

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