Of the many questions I asked as I first began taking writing seriously, and the one I find most oft repeated by budding story tellers, “How do I finish my current project?” stands out. And the most oft repeated answer to that question is, “Just do it.” Shallow questions often lead to shallow answers. Here, the question “How do I finish?” is so barren and devoid of nuance that no other answer aside from “Just finish” will honestly suffice. There are thousands of reasons a project just seems to slip from our grasp as we near the critical points in which the story is no longer fresh, but is also nowhere near complete.
The stories in our heads play out quick—sometimes the ideas come in a matter of seconds—and often just thinking about them satisfies the motivation to tell them. In our minds we have viewed something grand that will surely be even grander once it's finally put to the proverbial page. Though once the story comes to life one may soon realize the burden of connecting the beginning and end of a story. It’s exciting to being a new story, a story-teller can see what will happen. It’s wonderful, beautiful, and terrifying. Once the story begins a story teller will soon realize how daunting telling that story has become. How in the world is one to finish such a project? One that will inevitably include all the detail and feeling that is so apparent in the story teller’s mind. I’m here to say, just as everyone else has before, Just do it.
Now the question becomes how does one “Do it.” How does one take the reins and just ride until the story has finished? It’s not as simple as the short phrase would have it seem. It’s a matter of perspective, personal adjustment, and sacrifice. Telling a story is work. It’s work that must be done if the story is to be told. It’s not always fun, it’s not always motivating, and it sure as hell isn’t always rewarding. But it’s worth it. No one can tell another how to finish their stories. No one can give another a cure for the writer’s block that’s plagued so many before. All anyone can do is say what’s worked for them.
For me, it’s a matter of discipline. If I don’t write my story then it will never be told. Therefore, I must write that story. I must spend time writing it and putting in the effort to write it. Some days I’ll write 3000 words. Others I’ll struggle to wring from my stubborn mind more than a 100. Either way, both are a success. The discipline came down to a matter of routine and focus. Focus on something other than telling my story.
I spend too much time playing video games. Way too much time. I have plenty of excuses why, but that’s time I could spend writing, making a video, or expanding my business. However, I play them anyway. When I have free time, I’m not spending with my family I spring for the computer desk and load up one of several competitive games. I’m a sucker for a ranked system that assigns me a number value. I love watching those numbers go up and down. I love seeing them increase to show I’ve improved. I hate seeing them fall to show how I’ve lost my touch. It’s a matter of proving my self-worth. Not to any other players, not to the friends that play with me, but to myself.
For years I played games with no purpose. I just sat down, turned off my brain and let the dopamine drips flow. During those years I wrote little, if anything at all. Then I decided I wanted to finish my book. I’d been working on it for several years at that point. Several years of scant writing. I could barely even call it working at all. But I set myself down and made myself several goals. It was a February. I promised myself I’d finish this book by the end of the summer and that I’d reach the rank of Diamond in Overwatch. It was going to happen. “But how?” I would ask myself. And the answer came clear as day. “Just do it.”
In order to “Just do it.” I determined I needed my work to become habitual. I needed it all to come together and for each goal to flow into the next. But how could I possibly make reaching an arbitrary rank in a video game synergize with writing an entire book? I had a lot of questions then, I still do. It came down to setting limits and working with a purpose. To reach diamond in Overwatch, I had to become a better player. To finish my book, I had to stick to a disciplined writing schedule. That’s when I formulated the “Make it to Diamond in Overwatch while Simultaneously Writing an Entire Book in One Summer” plan. (I’ve become much better at naming things, I think.)
The first thing I did was consume an inordinate amount of player coaching videos about OW. I wanted to learn everything I could to improve. But that was all theoretical. I needed to improve my skills in the game, drastically. I could hardly hit a training-bot, much less an actual player. I set myself up on a regimen. Each play session I’d start with replay reviews. I’d watch my play back to find mistakes and then work that entire day to correct those mistakes. Then I’d spend 20-30 minutes in a practice range to warmup and practice my aim. Afterwards, I’d jump into the game and give it all I had to win. It took discipline, hard work, and a lot of clenched teeth to overcome the hurdles of my unskilled gold-brain, but I did it all.
The work stimulated my capacity to learn and ignited in me a passion to find value in the time I spent consuming entertainment. I would not let myself spend my time standing idly by without improvement. The drive I had to improve in Overwatch led me to seek ways to improve my play outside the game. Hence I fell upon my health. To keep my reactions and mechanical skill in top condition to grind the ranks, I needed to keep my body healthy. I settled into a steady workout routine that vastly improved my day-to-day mindset. I forced myself to do things my body actively wanted to stay away from. My body did not want to run for miles. I did it anyway. My brain wanted to turn off during my time playing Overwatch. I wouldn’t let it. I was in control. I decided what I wanted to do. And eventually I made it. After a painstaking few months, I reached my goal of reaching Diamond in Overwatch and along the way I finished my book.
For each day I wanted to do nothing but work toward improving in Overwatch I wouldn’t allow it. I wouldn’t give into the demands my mind made to push everything aside and keep playing. Instead, I set a rule. I would not play a game of Overwatch until my writing for the day was completed. Whether that meant 2000 words or 20 words. I would write my story until I couldn’t write it anymore. What mattered is that by the time I finished my writing session, I felt satisfied my work was complete. Until I felt that, I wouldn’t touch Overwatch.
There is immense value in entertainment. Even though I’ve reached my goals in Overwatch, I have more in both Heroes of the Storm and Valorant. I have more with my YouTube channel and with the books I write. To some of us, video gaming is the medium of storytelling that speaks to our hearts more deeply than any other. It can spark creativity, encourage growth of the imagination, and can even build discipline. The nuances of storytelling are deep and never ending. Each game played has value within it that can improve our capacity to tell our own stories. I strive to find that value in every moment I spend with a game. I want to know exactly what I can pull from the time I spend to improve myself as a story teller.
I guess that’s the answer I have to the question, “How do I finish my story?” Find value in the moments you aren’t writing your story. Make those moments feed into your story telling. And build the discipline to finish that story in whatever way fits your life. It’s your story. Tell it and finish it in whatever way is best for you.