There was a time, a stretch of years, where I had assumed I was endlessly working on the same book. I finished a draft. It was garbage. I didn't know how to fix it, so I started over. Somewhere in there I worked with Canadian author, Richard Scrimger for two-7 month stretches on what I thought were just different drafts of the same unfinished novel.
Then I switched to writing fantasy, and borrowed some of the characters hijacking their emotional baggage for a new story. I still had it in my head that this was the same book, because in 6 years, I had never stopped working with these characters. But in there I had written SEVEN first drafts of failed novels. Each story was different. Each one a little better. I was learning.
I was learning by finishing.
And before these characters ever existed I had finished an 80,000 word literary fiction MS and a Cyberpunk-esque sci-fi novella. It wasn't until I saw an interview with Neil Gaiman where he said these words that I realized that I HAD finished things. That I wasn't just reworking the same novel to death. I was learning how to do it. And for me anyways, those lessons needed years to sink in.
This was so encouraging for me. I had put in my time. Publication, if that is your goal, is the result of hard work. There is ability in there of course, but ability alone achieves nothing. Success lies in your ability to finish.
Aspire to finish. And when you finish whatever it is your writing, call yourself a writer.