Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Finishing School by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton

If you are like me, you have various unfinished writing projects in notebooks, tucked away in bottom drawers. You may have even been a part of a writing group, as I was. Yet the works remain unfinished.

Reading Finishing School has inspired me and made me believe there is hope to finish projects I have started. I know I can set aside a realistic number of hours a week and set achievable goals. The next week I can report on what I did or didn't accomplish and set realistic goals for the coming week.

Writers have so many obstacles to finishing. The authors have identified six major ones: doubt, shame, yearning, fear, judgment, and arrogance. They help identify the emotions underlying these blocks. I can recognize them and release them, getting back to work. This book helped me to not believe in those awful things I tell myself. (“I'm a terrible writer.” “I'll never get published.”)

The finishing school idea came out of a class to help writers with unfinished projects. Participants would get together once a week, not to critique their writing, but to focus totally on the commitment to write. The idea was accountability without judgment. The authors, one the teacher and the other a class participant, share here their ideas and experiences revolving around the concept.

We are given practical suggestions for forming our own “Finishing School for Two,” including finding a buddy to help with our accountability. I am encouraged that the concept is that of being committed to writing, not to critiquing the material produced. (The authors do include, however, how to benefit from a critique.)

I really appreciated the section on the six obstacles to finishing. I could identify with several of them and learned how to work through them to get back to writing. I was surprised but encouraged to use whatever is in my head. “This is the great power of being a writer, that anything that comes in our heads, however screwed up or crazy it is, can be used as material.”

I recommend this book to all of those writers out there with unfinished projects. This book gives a realistic framework within which you can make progress. It gives you the resources you need to break through those blocks and set realistic writing goals. You'll also be encouraged by the personal writing experiences the authors share.

You can find out more about the book and the technique at https://finishingschoolbook.com/.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Cary Tennis wrote an advice column for Salon.com for ten years. He created the Finishing School method and helps others through his writing workshops and retreats.
Danelle Morton is a journalist and the coauthor of fifteen books. She has worked for The New York Times and People. She has been a finalist for the PEN/USA Literary Nonfiction Award and the ASME magazine award in the public interest category.

TarcherPerigree, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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