Book Review: Finishing School: THe Happy Ending to that Ending to that Writing Project you can’t seem to get done

Book cover for Finishing SchoolProfessional librarians today are expected to be active in our organizations and in many cases, to be active writers, producing peer reviewed articles, book chapters and even books.  But writing does not come easily to many, and even the most prolific writers sometimes encounter the dreaded writer’s block.

Enter the subject of today’s book review, Finishing School.  The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can’t Seem to Get Done, by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton.  Tennis, an advise columnist, created the Finishing School method to solve his own writer’s block in completing his first novel.  He collaborates here with Morton, a multi-book author and journalist, who, like Tennis, had hit a wall when trying to finish a project that was near and dear to her heart. By following the Finishing School method, they were each able to finish a stymied project after only three months. They credit their success to the systematic method they share in this book.  Because, as the authors’ remind us, “Not finishing a piece of writing can feel like the death of a dream.”

This past year I participated in a Professional Writing Group at my library. I found the camaraderie of meeting with other librarians who were also committed to producing several pieces of academic writing over the year-long program to be inspiring and motivational.  We were able to support one another as we each experienced snags in our projects, and projects that may have been abandoned, gained new life through the encouragement of fellow writers.  I found myself to be more prolific than ever, maintaining my monthly posts to this blog, completing several book reviews for Library Journal, and completing both a feature article due to appear in CR&L News in April, and a scholarly literature review which as been accepted for publication in the Journal of Academic Librarianship.

Throughout the process of completing the literature review, I hit several walls that were very difficult to break through.  I wish I had found Tennis’ and Morton’s book early on during those stressful times.  In their book, the authors describe the six emotional pitfalls that most writers may face during their writing projects, often in an escalating spiral: Doubt, Shame, Yearning, Fear, Judgement and Arrogance. After we understand the emotions behind our blocks, the authors then describe the Finishing School Method, with Morton sharing her experiences as a participant in Tennis’ school for the first time. The focus of the Finishing School is not on critique of the writing itself, but on the systematic production of product, good or bad. Accountability to a fellow school participant provides the incentive to continue to meet agreed upon goals, and setting consistent, achievable goals helps cement the writing process that will carry the writer to successful completion.  The book concludes with suggestions for developing your own Finishing School group in your area.

I enjoyed reading Finishing School. Alas, since both of my writing projects were completed prior to finding this book, I find myself currently struggling with a totally different writer’s dilemma: finding another interesting topic to write about.  Ah well.  I wonder if there is another book for that?

How about you? How is your professional writing going?  What do you find helpful when hitting a writer’s block?  How do you find new topics to write about?  Share with us so we can all learn together.


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