Press On to Finish Strong

Typically, writing students are excited two times: at the very beginning of the writing course and again at the end (because they are graduating and/or being published.)

Book writers are also excited at the beginning of a project (when their idea and characters are new) and at the end (when the final draft is complete or it’s sold.)

But the middle? Middles can be miserable.

Part of the Package

Last year I had two writers in the same week, both talented and one already published, write to say that they were no longer excited about writing because it had become difficult. “This is harder than I thought it would be” is something I frequently hear. The new writer usually wants me to explain how to make it easy again, how to take the work out of the writing (because, presumably, it’s not hard work for me.)

I think this comes from a real misconception about writing. Writing is like having a good relationship with someone. It’s exciting when you first meet, it’s satisfying after years of sharing experiences and working through the conflicts, but the middle is a mixture of joy and tests (or obstacles.) Frequently it’s not fun! It’s just part of the package–and it’s the same with writing.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

A quote from Never Give Up! says it well:

“Between the beginning and the end, every situation or pursuit has a ‘middle’–and the middle is where we often face our greatest challenges, hurdles, roadblocks, obstacles, detours, and tests. People who are easily led by their emotions rarely finish what they start. They give up when the project is no longer exciting and all they see in front of them is hard work.”

Just a While Longer

If you’re on the verge of quitting writing, I would encourage you to give it a bit longer. Face the challenges and be determined to overcome them. Find ways to make the middles fun! They can be every bit as rewarding as beginnings and endings–it just takes more work. Don’t be satisfied with “just trying” something, but see it through to the end. At least 90% of the time, you’ll be so glad you did.

I know there are rare instances where the only wise thing to do is to give up (on a career choice, a relationship, or a story). That choice is the exception to the rule though. Don’t be quick to quit writing just because it stops being fun for a while.

Best Predictor of Success

Many new writers will ask me, “Do you think I have what it takes to succeed as a writer?” I used to believe that I could tell within a couple of lessons with students. I have found over the years that I was wrong. Too often the students I had earmarked for long and happy writing careers quit because it grew difficult, and they were used to instant and easy success.

On the other hand, students who were mediocre at the beginning have gone on to publish well! I have a shelf of student books to prove it. They studied, they learned, they took courses and got critiqued if necessary. They submitted and endured rejection slips–but they persevered. And I’m proud to say that their books are impacting the world of children in very positive ways.

Crossing the Finish Line

ALL writers have trouble sticking it out during those “miserable middles.” Do you have any mental tricks or words of wisdom that work for you at such times? If so, please share!

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4 Responses to Press On to Finish Strong

  1. Vijaya says:

    Death. It puts everything into perspective. Would I rather die trying to live the life I wanted, or just have dreamed of it? This is why I slog through the middle, the revisions, and I rather enjoy it (but I like it better when I’ve done it).

  2. Hi Kristi,

    This quote has pulled me through several periods of doubt:

    “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

    A funny aside: when you mentioned those students whom you thought would have a long, successful career in writing, I was thinking in my little, vain head, “Me, me. If I were her student, that’d be me.” Then when you said it was those who started off mediocre who went on to being successful with their writing, I thought again in my little, vain head, “Me, me. If I were her student, I’d be one of those who starts off mediocre!”

    • kwpadmin says:

      Claudine, I love that quote! So very true. And your sense of humor gave me a smile this morning. We are all different writers at different times. (You have a lovely review blog, by the way.) 8-)

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