Reaching the Finish Line of Your Manuscript: Winning The Fight Against Uncertainty
When my bike’s odometer hit 30 miles last weekend, at the same time as the only cloud in the August Phoenix sky relinquished its position in front of the sun, I realized the next 30 miles was going to be brutal. Moisture hung in the air, making the 100 degrees feel more like a hot sauna. The gentle breeze was more reminiscent of a hair dryer in my face. I doubted I could finish the workout. Worse, I doubted the need to put myself through the tough day. Will it matter? Will there even be a race this year?
Remembering the Why
I pulled to the roadside, finding a rare and small patch of shade beneath a desert mesquite tree. It was time for a serious personal conversation about why I was training for a race that might be cancelled in an emotionally trying year when the world has been shut down due to Coronavirus. Ironman Arizona is only 3 months away. My training has been a leap of faith that the race will actually occur. So, I slog my way through 115-degree Arizona days with over 30% humidity, leaving at 0-dark-30 for runs when it’s still “only” 90 degrees out or trying to squeeze in 60-80 mile bike ride in the early morning before the sun turns my flesh to ash.
On the side of that blistering-hot road, under that tiny patch of shade, I had an epiphany (though not the one I was expecting!)
Writing a Manuscript is a Lot Like Endurance Triathlon Training
Endurance training is about months (sometimes years) of focus, dedication, exhaustive days, and hard work to cross the finish line. There’s no guarantee we will make it. There’s no guarantee we won’t crash and not get to the finish line, even after all those months of training. But as triathletes we keep trying, because we believe in the goal so much. We love getting better at what we do. We hope.
Writing a manuscript is very similar. We write for months, sometimes years, to painfully craft the perfect story. We find ways to squeeze writing into our daily obligations, from family to work or school. We lose sleep. We try to become better writers through classes, conferences, books, or online resources. We query or pitch or self-publish. Even in the face of rejections, we keep trying, because we believe in the goal so much. We hope.
In the end, none of us has any assurance of what the finish line will bring
Why Push Ourselves to an Uncertain Goal?
Much like training for races, writing brings such a sense of accomplishment, hope, self-worth, and belonging that we continue to push ourselves, trying to finish what we started. According to Ellen L. Buikema, author of children’s chapter books, some of us a driven by the joy of creativity, other by the desire to inspire. Some enjoy the challenge of publishing and selling. Hoping to reach the finish line with a sense of accomplishment. For some, the finish line is typing “The End.” For others, it’s entering a pitch contest or getting an agent manuscript request.
It isn’t easy.
To continue your writing goal, accept that there will be rough days. Days you need to pull to the side of the road and have a chat with yourself to remember why. Why you push yourself. Why you started writing. Why it’s so important to not give up and keep trying. And take care of yourself along the way. Avoid burnout (tips about that here).
And keep in mind one basic tenet: if you never try, the answer is a certain no.
Then, reinvigorated, climb back on that bike, and head onto the road until you get to your finish line.
I liken writing to endurance sports too, and my favourite analogy for it is running. It’s often a slog and feels totally dumb when you’re pounding the pavement, but there is a reason why you do it, and one of it is finding yourself.
Thanks for this post!
I love that analogy. I also think with running, every day seems like such a little bit toward any big goal, until you look back and realize how may miles you have covered over time. I think writing is probably like that, too. Do you find you get good story or scene ideas while running?