The Illusive Finish Line

Do you ever get overwhelmed? Does it feel like you're slogging knee deep through mud? Or even better, do you feel like you are moving forward, but the finish line always seems to stay just beyond your reach? I have felt each of those sensations many times over the course of my life, but especially from the moment I began writing.

The work of creation - taking an idea from first seed planted to holding the finished work in your hands - is not an easy one, at least not for me. I am sure there are exceptions, but in talking to other artists I hear the same lament.  Rarely is a new work conceived in a way what it will be is set in stone from the start. Ideas grow and change and take on a life of their own. 

Then comes the pause. You step back and ponder. You view, read, or touch, and try to decide if you are finished. Is your creation complete and perfect as is. Rarely is the answer yes. The editing and fine tuning process begins.  It can go on for days, months, or even years depending on the person, the amount of time they have to commit to the process, and their ability to let go.  


I can tell you point blank as a writer that I almost never re-read my books once they are published. I will dive in to find a quote, but never read it from beginning to end. Why? I will want to change and re-write passages. I will lament the use of a word, or phrase. I will want it to be better. There is always something that could be redone.

Knowing I feel this way about a finished book, you can imagine how much worse I am when it comes to books in development.  Even though I am still writing, it can feel like I am not really moving forward. That feeling doesn't pass until the moment I email my manuscript off to begin the editing process. Dealing with editing may not be fun, but it is a huge mile marker in the life of a new book. From there on the changes are polish.  With the writing done, it's time to finalize the cover and decide on a launch date. 

"Great works are performed not by strength but perseverance." - Dr. Samuel Johnson

This quote by Dr. Samuel Johnson was shared in a book I was reading the other day. It really hit the mark for me when I think back over my career as a freelance writer, blogger, and author.  I began my career by diving in with no experience, learning and making mistakes in the public eye - a roller coaster of highs and lows. In the past, I always just walked away when things got too tough, but for some reason I so deeply wanted to express my passion through writing that I just kept at it. No matter what happened, good or bad, I just kept trying. The result was I ended up surprising myself.


I believe there are times a great work comes to us from some deep inspiration, the universe expressing itself through us. In those times we simply step back and allow ourselves to be a channel for the flow.  This, however, is the exception.  The rest of the time it takes perseverance - "... a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition." It takes a willingness to commit, to learn from mistakes, to change direction, to allow the creative process to lead.  It takes showing up every day, day after day, week after week.  

There truly is no feeling like reaching the finish line.  The day a box full of my first book arrived, I was scared to open it.  When I finally found the courage, I picked up a single copy, held it in my hands and found myself filled with feelings of awe, gratitude and pride. I had finished. I had birthed a book. Me. I was worried the experience with book two wouldn't feel the same way. It turned out to be just as delicious the second time around. I hope this reaction is always a part of my process when birthing each new book.

In this moment, with several books in the development process and an eBook in the editing stage, I find myself again feeling mired, unable to make serious progress.  These are the times I hold onto quotes like the ones above. I post them at my work station.  I breath and repeat them like a mantra before I begin and glance at them whenever I stall. Whether an easy or hard day, I simply keep writing one word after another, editing one paragraph after another, and continue for as long as I can.


Persistence is a muscle you build by keeping at it day after day.  It is how you develop a strong backbone, and fight your way through the blocks when they arise. Perseverance not only takes you to the finish line, but also is waiting there to offer you a celebratory, "Well done."