Learning from endings

I’ve finished the rewrite of my script.

And I’ve learned so much about endings as I’ve approached this one. It’s a different scenario from the usual drill of having a forced, external deadline. This one has been entirely internally motivated. There’s no due date, there’s no have-to.

Look at the pony show

And the fancy tricks I started to pull at the end were very creative. Hilarious, in point of fact.

As soon as I could “see” the end — when I had it in my sights and knew it was only a matter of about 10 to 15 pages to get there, my insides got all squirrely. I decided I wanted to finish it right then, even if it took me the rest of the day.

When reality struck and I realized I had other work that had to come first (I am running a business here), I found myself wanting to postpone working on it again until I had a Long Block of Time to write (the precise opposite of what I recommend). What a joke! I got myself back onto my regular, moderate, well-paced schedule of 30 minutes a day pretty quickly once I caught on to the dog-and-pony show my inner critic was putting on.

I also found that my inner critic fired up a whole new level of criticism — she’s been pulling out all the stops, laying it on fast and thick, “It’s not as good as the last draft. You’ve wasted your time, it’s still no better. This still isn’t marketable.”

Good thing I know better than to listen to all that.

Creative expression is deeply vulnerable

Here’s what I also know to be true — part of me IS scared, and that’s okay. I just can’t — and won’t — let it stop me. I only need to acknowledge it and move on. It’s a big deal, after all, bringing something into being. It’s bound to stir up fear and vulnerability.

Shame researcher Brené Brown says that there’s nothing more vulnerable than creating something that has never existed before.

She’s right.

I’ve also heard it described as being like taking down your pants, in public, very… very… slowly.

It’s no wonder so many of us hesitate when it comes to completing our work.

It’s all about the fear — and the old wounds

So many of us have been so wounded around our creative expression, it’s no wonder we hold back when it comes to “shipping.”

Shipping, in case you’re wondering, means completing and delivering our work, whether it’s a website, book, ebook, script, painting, or widget.

I can’t tell you how many people I see never shipping their work, full of excuses, not realizing it’s really fear that’s stopping them. (If you want help keeping your fear and doubt from stopping you, my new mentoring programs will help. More on that next week.)

It happens with so many different kinds of projects — getting almost to the completion point and then deciding we’re “stuck” or “bored.” Websites that never go live. Ebooks that never get published. Scripts that languish in endless revisions.

It’s all just smoke and mirrors

Stuck is a smokescreen for fear.

Bored is a smokescreen for fear.

The fact is, we are terrified. Getting to the end of a project stirs up all our issues around being seen, heard, scrutinized, read, listened to, failing, succeeding.

But in the end, isn’t it better to try?

Brené Brown brought this quote from Theodore Roosevelt to my attention, “It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he’s in the arena, at best he wins, and at worst he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.”

I’d much rather try and “fail” then never to try at all.

Your turn

I’d love to hear from you. What’s your experience with completion? Do you keep going until the end? Waffle? Run out of steam? Get bored? Are you daring greatly? Dipping in a toe or diving in? Does the fear of failing stop you?



Coming Attractions

~> March 8th at 11 a.m. Pacific — Mark your calendar! If you enjoyed my Creative Productivity TeleClass Series and you’re wondering about the next steps to put what you learned into practice, you’ll want to join me for this free information call next week. I’ll walk you through identifying your next steps and fill you in about details about how I can support you along the way through my 1:1 mentoring programs. More information on its way soon! Watch your inbox for details about how to sign up.

~> March 21st: Register for the next Writer’s Circle session. Register by March 21st for the next session of my Writer’s Circle (starts March 25th). Build a solid habit of daily writing and finish all your writing projects: http://JustDoTheWriting.com. We’re running four groups of fantastic writers right now and it’s a ton of fun. Come join us!


What I'm Up To

~> Daily. Working on rewriting my script, Progeny, with my mentor Chris Soth after finishing the ProSeries. Just about done!

~> Reading How to Speak Dragonese with my son. Finished ScriptShadow Secrets* by Carson Reevesa great one!


Thanks for reading.


* Affiliate link


  1. fredrica parlett says:

    Jenna, you weren’t supposed to finish before me! But congratulations. I have one more scene. The issues you bring up are really important. I’m going to print this one for revision time (after a one month break doing other projects — maybe a little research).

  2. Bob Steele says:

    Hi Jenna,
    I think your comments about fear of shipping are spot on for me. I’m on my 5th/6th rewrite of a rom-com over a 2-year period. I like my characters, story line, and most of my plot points. However, one of the comments that I received from a friend (with Harvard PhD in Literature) who was kind enough to read my 1st draft, was that I had a great story going, but fizzled out at the ending. That’s what I’m focusing on now.

    I’ve been reading and reviewing all of the “what to do/not do” materials from the 7 books I have on screenwriting, my PS32 ScreenwritingU class materials, as well as online articles and sage advice from Hal Croasmun, Carson Reeves, @jeannevb, Scott Myers, Chris Soth, John Truby, Bill Pace, ScriptMag, The Script Lab, yourself, and a dozen or so accomplished or aspiring screenwriters.

    My goal is to complete my rewrite by March 31 and submit it to several professional scrutineers. In January, I decided (with my wife’s strong approval) to quit pursuing new business customers/consulting gigs and become a full-time writer. Now that I have publicly announced my goal, I have no choice but meet my target completion date.

    When I look back at my creative endeavors over the past 40 years, other than poems and songs, my shelves/folders are replete with unfinished projects. Foremost among them is my first novel, a techno-adventure-spy thriller. I had done considerable techno research (I was a systems engineer working for NASA in the 80s) and spent six months developing character traits and names before I wrote a single word. I had completed 200+ pages (single space) of the novel. I shelved the project after receiving some rather stark criticism from a fellow engineer who had published his sci-fi nove. I was devastated after reading his critique, which included deleting 12 pages from the first two chapters. Not finishing that book is one of my greatest regrets.

    I have “much” thicker skin these days, but I still feel “very” nervous at the prospect of submitting my work for professional review. But submit it I will. My next project will be the resurrection/completion of my novel as a screenplay.

    I sincerely appreciate your encouraging tweets and advice. I hope to share some lessons learned myself in the future.

    All the best,

    • Bob, thanks for the comment, and I’m glad this was so spot on for you. Writing a great ending is so important, I’m glad you’re working on it further, and it sounds like you have all the right resources to help you do just that. Sounds like you’ve got a great schedule and a hugely supportive wife, too, that’s just what you need! I’d love to see you go back and finish that novel too. :)

      As far as having a thick skin, I think we have to always remember that there will always be people who don’t like what we do and there’s nothing we can do to please everyone. I’m on the fence about whether or not I think having a thick skin helps us or not. I’ll have to think about that more.

      Thanks for posting!

  3. It was a bit of a shock when I finished writing my first novel. I’d been typing away at top speed. All of a sudden my fingers stopped moving. I told my brain to write the next sentence and waited.

    And waited. I reread the last sentence. Then the last paragraph, then the last several paragraphs…and realized that was it. The story was complete. Far from finished–several rounds of editing to go–but complete nonetheless.

    Now I’m adapting it as a screenplay. (If you adapt a book make sure you secure the copyright, even if it’s your own work.) So the story might get a second life. There will be changes. ;)

    • Very cool story, Phyllis! And I’m fascinated by your comment about the copyright for our own novels. Do you mean to copyright it once we’ve written it, before adapting it?

      • It’s an issue of whether or not the novel has been published and by who. Authors may not realize traditional publishers have a history of extinguishing author rights to the material (the world created, its characters, story specifics, etc) as a condition of publication. Since self-publishing companies vary in degrees of ownership a writer needs to know where she stands before engaging a screenwriter. (Screenwriters tend to be far more aware of this than authors.) If your publishing house owns all your rights you must go through them.

        Generally you do not want to copyright your novel manuscript before sending it to a publisher. It may harm your chances.

  4. Hi Jenna,

    I took an assertive training class about 20years ago that really got me thinking in new ways. We each had to taking a turn sitting in the middle of the room and after I talked one of the facilitators said she thought i had not a fear of failure but a fear of success.

    One of those breakthrough moments that helped me get comfortable in the limelight of accepting praise!

    Most of us have a fear of success. Yes, we are pushed towards it but not really if you look at it. All training to accept being second, third, fourth or fifth fiddle. The way we “educate” people could never propel them towards feeling good in the limelight. It’s one giant competition with a few winners and tons of “losers.”

    Why we keep doing things the same stupid way makes no sense to me.

    Am steadily working on my book. Every week a new chapter. More than half done!



    • Good points — learning to accept praise is a muscle we have to develop in this culture. It’s not easy. And what you said about the way we educate people too — so true. Thanks for the comment, G.

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