Great writing is not something that naturally emerges from talented individuals. It is the result of doing the work until a result is achieved – regardless of whether that result meets with success.
The attribute of finishing what you start is what makes talented writers great – and competent writers better.
Runners are often coached to run past the finish line because that is where the race is often decided.
Great athletes give their best regardless of the competition. They compete against themselves. It is the same with your writing.
Of course, as a writer you are not competing against anyone, or are you?
Getting better as a writer means giving your best from start to finish – and that is only possible if you endeavor to always cross the finish line on every piece of writing that you take on, whether that is memo, article, or a book.
Easy Victories are Rare
If you are a runner you vividly remember those races where your performance was effortless. Not only did you achieve a victory or a personal best, but you enjoyed the process from start to finish.
Writers know what this is like too. Once in a while you start writing and the ideas bubble up and flow just like magic. The end result is a beautiful and insightful work that is nearly flawless.
Easy victories are rare, but can nevertheless be achieved with greater frequency by adhering to one benchmark – finish what you start.
For writers, this means every single piece of writing – without exception.
The Only Failure is Not Finishing
When you cross the finish line you achieve a result that leads to more victories. It gives you something to build on.
Incomplete efforts are failures. How can you build on something that is unfinished? You can’t.
Have you not completed a letter or article and reviewed it to only exclaim to yourself: “This is going nowhere; it makes no sense.”
Then you edit.
Why is it not going anywhere? It’s a simple puzzle to solve. Did you not start well, get off track in the middle, or not finish well? It’s usually one or a combination of those three things.
These are not failures. They are actually the raw materials for success.
Compare that to quitting. You can quit from the start, in the middle, or just as you approach the finish line. Any one of those is a failure because no result is produced that can serve as a foundation for improvement.
There’s Always Another Finish Line
Writing is a skill that develops when you practice it consistently. Assuming that you are writing for others, the only way to determine if you are making progress is to get your work out there where you can get feedback from your target audience.
An incomplete message cannot be evaluated, so you have to first finish the work. Whether you achieve a victory or something less than that, you have still crossed the finish line.
As a former competitive runner, I know with certainty that once you quit a race in the middle it gets easier to do it again – much easier. While it can be embarrassing to cross the finish line at the back of the pack, it is far less damaging to the human psyche than quitting.
Like running, writing is a mental game – one in which your confidence grows with each successful completion.
Great writers celebrate every finish line because they know there are only two results – victories, and victories in disguise.
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Until tomorrow, Jeff