Worth Starting, Not Worth Finishing?


Lately I’ve been starting a great number of blog posts, saving them as drafts, and then leaving them, unfinished, in my blog’s drafts queue for weeks (and now months) until at some point I realize the post is either no longer inspiring to me or somehow irrelevant. For example, Khoi Vinh recently posted a great article entitled “Designed for Deterioration“, about how products should be designed to deteriorate more gracefully, but meanwhile my own draft article entitled “Wearing In vs. Wearing Out” has been sitting around for three months, half-written.

The sad part is that these articles often linger at what I feel to be 80-90% completeness. Maybe it’s procrastination, maybe I’m a perfectionist… or maybe something critical is missing and I just can’t figure out what it is.

But then again, maybe I should, instead of just waiting for the final inspiration to appear to me in a vision, periodically pick out one of these draft essays, spend a maximum of five minutes finishing it the best that I can, and then just go ahead and publish it in whatever form I can get it to in those five minutes.

Maybe these hastily-completed essays will come out a bit half-baked, maybe a little haphazard… maybe it won’t even reach any kind of clear conclusion, leaving the reader waiting for me to finish my idea. But maybe it will finally


8 responses to “Worth Starting, Not Worth Finishing?”

  1. well for many who take what they do seriously, we never ever feel we have done enough and looking at it later you will always find fault with it.

    i think your course in the last part is what you should do, i mean at least you will have a meaningful conversation with your audience and perhaps complete the thought together:)

  2. I agree with Henry. Do you have any techniques that you use to get you out of other ruts, productivity-wise? You might try applying one of them to your writing.

    What is it about the posts that seem unfinished? Is there a pattern?

    Oh, and nice job on the picture and last paragraph, by the way. 😉

  3. Yikes! If all blog posts are expected to be complete, well-written, and insightful, I’m in deep, deep trouble.

    Personally, as a reader, I think that half-finished posts are sometimes the ones that generate the most discussion, precisely because the author hasn’t already attempted to close the issue in the post itself.

  4. I think it’s worth asking “does it matter if it stays a draft?” I tend to work in a similar way as you described. I have many unfinished drafts. But if I were to slap on an ending just to finish the piece it would probably be unclear or personally unsatisfying. Because of that, I feel it’s better to leave many things as drafts (which isn’t entirely satisfying either, but it’s more satisfying than the alternative). Often a new idea will form out of an unformed one anyhow. Such is the way of people with ideas.

  5. I do the same exact thing as you in this regard, with a lot of projects. With me, I think it’s because I’m a perfectionist and would rather do things perfectly or not at all. I don’t think it’s a matter of lack of something critical. When you start working on something, you have tons of ideas to get out of your head. The more and more you write, there’s diminishing returns — by the time you’re near the end, you have less and less things to say, and the entire endeavor becomes less interesting and easy to give up and come back to later. I think you should just put things out there, even if they’re half-finished in your mind — even if they’re not perfect to you, other people might find them to be just what they’re looking for. I really like your idea about giving yourself five minutes only to finish a draft!

  6. for me, i try to do some small errands and tasks before I get started on the big thing, so that i get into the mood of completing things. and then once I hit the stride i put on my earphones and finish the big thing and then not look at it till one day later.

    and then its becomes just a refinement on the completed work from yesterday:)

  7. I find it interesting that the perfectionists say “throw it out there”. Maybe there’s some value in that. If you’re a perfectionist, then maybe you should. I’m not a perfectionist, I just have lots of ideas and sometimes I bounce between them which leaves things incomplete. Throwing it out there would be bad for me. Depending on the personality traits you most identify with might be an indication of how to handle your “incompletes”.

  8. I’ve got a bunch of those types of posts just aging unfinished as well. Some are just random ideas I started just so I wouldn’t forget them. But others are ones that require many hours of effort to perfect. As a creative pursuit, I think it’s fair that some of the ideas just don’t work out. And you really need to try it before you can decide one way or another. Others just need more time to perfect.
    I’m going to guess that if some articles are 80-90 percent done and you’re still not feeling like they are good to go out, they likely need to be rewritten or properly edited. Something must not be reading correctly to you. As for me, if I don’t go back to an article at that stage, it’s just purely a time constraint or procrastination. Don’t know about you…