Shorter Focus = Successful Writing

I read a very surprising study recently on the differences between marathon runners who finished the race and those who didn’t. All the runners were equally fit and trained and healthy.

So what was the deciding factor in whether they were hardy enough to finish the 26-mile run?

It depended on where they placed their focus.

And it wasn’t at all where I expected!

Letting Go of the Goal

The runners who finished the race all said, in one way or another, that they had to stop focusing on the finish line and focus on the process instead. Rather than telling themselves, “I can’t run ten more miles to the finish line!” they focused on what they could do. They told themselves, “I can take the next step. If I have to slow down and shuffle, I can still take the next step.”

One reason they stopped focusing on the finish line was because it seemed overwhelming, too difficult. But a second reason they stopped focusing on the finish fascinated me: they actually lost speed. Whether they were ahead of the pack or behind everyone, focusing on the finish line made them slow down.

Parallels with Writing

You often see writing a novel compared to running a marathon. It does have many similarities: training, planning, learning specific skills, endurance, perseverance, and daily plodding! So I suspect that where you focus if you want to finish also applies to writers.

I know for a fact that when I focus on the finish line–the day I can say the book is done–that it feels overwhelming. All the work that needs to be done to get there just looks too difficult. And that feeling of being overwhelmed may be what causes us to slow down and procrastinate even starting the daily “workout.”

The Solution?

I expect that the writer’s solution to this is much like the marathon runner’s answer. We need to focus on what I can do right now. Something small that corresponds to the runner’s “next step.” Small steps don’t look overwhelming. They look simple and do-able, if you’ve made them small enough. And we don’t have to be speed demons either. Like the marathon runner, we can “slow down and shuffle,” if we have to.

They say hardiness consists of three personality characteristics: commitment, control, and challenge. Writers with hardiness–marathon writers–outlast other writers. They commit themselves to what they are doing, they believe they can control themselves and their small part in the publishing process, and they believe challenges are a normal part of the process.

Become a Marathon Finisher!

Are you a “hardy” writer? You may not think so because you’ve seen many of your writing goals go by the wayside. But maybe–just maybe–you have all the hardiness you need to be successful. Perhaps you’ve been focusing on the goal too much instead of just taking that next small (slow) step.

If so, learn and apply this easy mental trick of successful marathon runners!

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2 Responses to Shorter Focus = Successful Writing

  1. Katlyn says:

    Thanks for this! I think I needed to read it, and I’m going to try it!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Katlyn, I think focusing on my end goal is nearly always the problem behind my procrastination. Focusing on TODAY’S WORK isn’t nearly so intimidating, not when I use mini habits and mini goals. Good luck!

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