Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Finishing School for Creatives Stuck in Limbo

Finishing School: The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get DoneFinishing School: The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done by Cary Tennis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First off the bat, Finishing School is not about etiquette (nor espionage). It is however about learning and unlearning habits. This book reads like a dual memoir.

Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton share in personal essays where they're coming from. Readers find out what it was, that kept otherwise productive writers from finishing (certain) projects, and how they overcame inertia. Along the way they offer a method to follow, and they share how to start a Finishing School of one's own, for two or more.

Cary is a long time devotee and teacher of the Amherst Writers and Artists Workshop. The workshops he leads at his home help writers produce material, as he has himself, following Pat Schneider's Amherst method. A few decades ago, Cary and his friend Alan Kaufman attended meetings of "Artists Recovering through the Twelve Steps (A.R.T.S.) Anonymous". They found buddying up to make sure they would send material out for publication was a great help. In a way Finishing School is a follow up on Cary's experience with ARTS.
"Making your intentions known, committing to them, having an (art) buddy: these were genuinely useful things."

Danelle Morton started as a beat journalist and has co-authored many a book, and written book proposals. Yet when it came down to writing from the heart, writing about what mattered to herself, she felt paralyzed. Learning about Cary's ideas on finishing projects, she embarked on a month-long try-out. In a way the book Finishing School is partially a longitudinal report by journalist Morton. She shares what it's like to succumb to a method when one is stuck with unfinished material, even as a professional.

Readers may relate to either or both authors' situation and point of view.

  • Journaling without a clear aim what all those entries are good for, and even "winning" the yearly NaNoWriMo challenge, can leave one with a pile of material, left to mature on its own in the dark hole called CPU.
  • Working on assignment, writing about others, or with others, with a clear deadline, is a piece of cake compared to finishing without a contract. Judging your own stories as important enough to be published, is another thing all together. 

Finishing School may help you overcome hurdles.

The unusual "." (period) behind "School" and "Done" in the title is a clever choice, suggesting The End. Given words Happy", "Writing" and "Done" may be substituted by anything else that would apply to the readers' endeavors.
Eager to get back to work after a hiatus due to family caregiving responsibilities, I felt inspired by the Finishing School method to get my studio/ writing den back in order.

I received a complementary e-galley as well as a hard copy from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.