Project Life Cycles

This landed in my in-box earlier this week, from a knitter’s mailing list:

We were chatting in my online community recently, and someone posted the most hilarious photo about the life cycle of a knit or crochet project.  It basically diagrammed the journey (for lack of a better word) we all take when we embark on a big project.

The life cycle of a crafty project looked a little something like this:


  • Step 1.  1-10% finished. Total excitement about starting a new project and how amazing the finished item will be.
  • Step 2.  10-30% finished. The “Wow…this is taking longer than I first expected stage”.
  • Step 3. 30-99% finished. Total regret that this project was ever started and despair that it may never be finished.
  • Step 4.  100% finished.  Extreme joy, pride, and accomplishment at the finished project.

I wish I could find the diagram she’s talking about. It rings true for me, both as a knitter and as a writer.

My daughter writes with joy and abandon, typing away and happily obsessing over her characters and her story ideas. Then she gets a shiny new idea and abandons the old one, going off to write something else. That’s the way it should be; she’s fourteen. Her job as a developing writer is to play, to make pictures in her mind and practice putting words around those pictures. She knows that eventually she’ll have to tackle the tough slog of getting to the end, if she decides to pursue writing for publication, but now is not that time.

I’ve written a few books now. I’ve had seven published, and have written to the end of a few promising drafts that I loved at the time, but didn’t get back to. In theory, I should know how to finish a manuscript. At the very least, I should remember what the hard parts feel like and how to navigate them. But I think there’s some kind of blocking chemical that might kick in, the way that they say that women never really remember the pain of childbirth — or we would stop having babies.

I think I’m at around the 30% mark with my current work-in-progress. Maybe only 10%, although I shudder to think that may be the case. Either way, I’m heading into a harder stage. I hit a pretty big ka-thunk last week, when I had written the stuff I could see, the part of the story where one thing flowed into another and I knew where things were going. Now I’m looking ahead; I have some milestones where I know more-or-less what needs to happen, but I don’t have a clear scene-to-scene plan. My writing work seems to involve taking stock of where my characters are at, thinking about what they want, and trying to figure out what the next thing is they might do. It’s not the end of the world (all writers must save that for act three, bwa-ha-ha), but it’s a long way from the easy flow I was in a few weeks ago, seeing clearly where my story was headed.

I’ve heard writers refer to the E.L. Doctorow quotation: Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

I hope there’s something to it.

Wow… this is taking longer than I first expected.