How to Finish Creative Projects

If  you're reading this, you probably have a creative project you want to finish. Or maybe you've reached the point where you want to throw in the towel, but you feel like you should finish.

Should is kind of a dirty word, a red flag that something isn't bringing you joy, but if you've been doing this for a while, you know that chasing your exciting new ideas just leads to a bunch of unfinished projects. It's important to take a step back and evaluate if you still love a story enough to finish it (even if sometimes you also hate it, lol).

If there's still a spark, maybe you just need some quick inspiration. I love Jake Parker's “Finished But Not Perfect” video. It's only about a minute long, and it helps reset my priorities (because when I'm hating a project, I'm usually hung up on getting it perfect).

On the other hand, if you're feeling like a serial quitter, you may need some new tools for your toolbox. Marie Forleo has a great YouTube video called, “Follow-Through Habits for Serial Quitters.”

Does Spencer's problem sound familiar? Let's break it down. After you “give yourself permission to dabble,” try these new habits:

Habit #1: Meditate Daily

This is something I'm still not perfect at, but my day goes better when I do it. Meditation helps clear out all of the negative self-talk (and other distractions) so that you can focus on getting your work done. As Marie said, it helps build your cognitive control and build focus habits.

Habit #2: Define What Complete Looks Like

I'm going to deviate from (or maybe expand upon) what Marie had to say about defining what completion looks like to talk about setting attainable goals. 


SMARTER is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely, evaluate, readjust. 

Your goal needs to be specific. What is your objective, and how will you achieve it?

It needs to be measurable. Otherwise, how will you ever know when you've finished? Is there a timeline and/or a benchmark you can set? For example, “I'm going to have my website up and running by next Friday at noon.”

Is your goal achievable? Let's be realistic here. Setting unrealistic goals just sets you up to fail. Can you get a website up in a week?

Your project or goal is relevant to your overall success, right? No one wants to feel like they're running in circles.

Is your goal timely? If finishing things isn't your strength, you might want to break a larger goal into smaller ones and have a timeline of deadlines. Do you have someone you can check in with for accountability? That really does help.

How often will you evaluate your progress? This one will help you stay focused. Critique groups can help with this.

Sometimes, you need to readjust your goal. Maybe you do need to move on to another project. Or perhaps your project just needs a major revision. You might even decide that you're writing or illustrating for the wrong age group.

But for now, what does completing your project look like, and how are you going to get there?

Habit #3: Practice Wearing Blinders

Marie talks about the blinders that people put on horses to keep them from getting distracted by their environment. Setting SMARTER goals will help you focus. I really like her quote at the end: “Creative success means balancing your love of starting things with a habit of finishing them.”

Thanks for reading!

If you have something that helps you finish creative projects, please share in the comments!

Myrna Foster
Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.

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