There are two–maybe three–big things that prevent you from finishing a story. One, procrastination. Two, burn out. Of the two, procrastination at least pretends to be something useful (don’t let it fool you though, it is lying to you and is not actually useful). Burn out on the other hand makes no attempt to hide what it’s there to do: make you dislike your story.
Every creative person has a well from which they draw inspiration and motivation to create. That well is a finite resource however, and burn out is what you get when that well is empty. It can feel like you’re tired of working on that particular project or that you’ve run out of ideas for it. This can make you susceptible to Shiny New Project Syndrome, or just add another unfinished piece to the pile.
Thankfully, avoiding burn out isn’t a huge undertaking. There’s a lot of little steps that can prevent it.
Start with self-care. Your energy reserves will only go so far, and they’ve got to get split between taking care of family, the day job, relationships and your creative projects. Sometimes the best way to keep your energy up is to go ahead and indulge yourself in twenty minutes of cat videos or to accept that yes, you know you’re procrastinating, but one night off of this that or the other thing won’t hurt. Just don’t make it every night and don’t let self-care be an excuse to procrastinate with more cat videos.
Make sure you also have plenty of creative inspiration to keep your ideas flowing. This might be anything from a mood board, a hand-picked playlist or even just a list of random things you like seeing in stories. Keeping something to help bring a new idea to life helps you avoid getting stuck on trying to cover that gaping plot hole and helps refill your creativity.
The final part is pacing yourself. Not everyone writes at a breakneck pace, and even those of us who do might want to consider pumping the brakes a little. There is no such thing as overnight success, it takes lots of little steps. Pouring your energy into one step leaves you unprepared to handle the next step–be that editing, submitting, marketing or whatever else you have to do for your project. Your energy needs time to refill. Also keep in mind that just because you’ve finished one step doesn’t mean you have to dive headlong into the next. If you’re getting feedback, give it a day or two to soak in before you start making changes. The same goes for finishing a draft–pace yourself and give yourself some time for the emotional reaction to diminish so you can give the right amount of energy to the next step.