Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Unfinished Things

I was talking to bard_bloom about unfinished projects yesterday. Bard has a number of projects in the works, a couple of which were abandoned, and was saying how it wouldn't let itself start any new projects until it had some milestones on existing ones.

I said that I knew what Bard meant; I'd resolved not to start any new RPG campaigns until I finished some of the current ones. "New stories I don't mind starting."

"Why's that different?" Bard asked.

And then I got distracted by something and never responded.

But it's been on my mind: why is it different?

I think part of it is momentum on a campaign is different from momentum on a book or a story. It's easy for me to lose momentum when writing on my own, but it's also easier to pick it back up again. To use an extreme example: I picked Prophecy back up again after a hiatus of over ten years.

Campaigns are more vulnerable. I have finished campaigns after breaks that lasted several months, but efforts to restart a campaign that's been idle for years have been rare and less successful. Actually, it wasn't until I started running games on Sinai that I got into the habit of finishing campaigns at all. Prior to that, the closest I came was bringing the occassional story arc in a game to a conclusion. Mirari was the first game I ever started with the intention of closing the story at some point. Of solving the great mystery and wrapping up the characters and putting the whole thing away. Of course, I anticipated doing so in a six-eight sessions and it actually took over 120, but hey, minor details.

Anyway, I do feel like starting a new game for me sucks much of the energy out of the existing one, and I like that satisfaction of finishing things.

With writing -- well, I still like the satisfaction of finishing things there, too.

But I still haven't figured out what works for me when writing. I finished Prophecy using the incredibly tedious Master Plan; it worked, yes. But the process was painful and largely joyless, and I wasn't happy with the final product. I finished Silver Scales with no special resolutions about working on it. I was euphoric through the entire final weeks of writing it, working harder than I'd ever done before and deliriously happy about it. And in general, happy with the book I produced (even if it is unpublishably long).

That's part of why I don't want to worry about not starting new projects while still working on the old. Because I didn't worry about it while I was writing Silver Scales and I love how that worked out.

I think another reason, though, is that my unfinished stories bring me some pleasure, too. When I look back at fragments of stories, I do often wish I'd finished them. But I'm also glad that I started them. And I always think, "I can still finish it, someday, maybe." With an unfinished campaign, the moment is passed. It's hard to get back players who've moved on, or to pick up the threads of a plot half-forgotten.

And I don't want to be known as the GM who always quits; the one who has a great start and no follow-through. Maybe it's just different when I've got other participants waiting on me.

Weirdly, it never occured to me until just now to think of art in these terms. I've never thought 'I should work on that painting instead of doing a new sketch'. Probably this is because I've never done the really big involved painting that take hundreds or thousands of hours to finish. If it took me as long to do a picture as to write a book ...

Well, I'd've given up art entirely by now in that case. :)

I'm sure everyone has this problem in one area or another. How do you deal with your unfinished things, and with the urge to do something new instead of working on an existing project?
Tags: writing
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