Becoming a Finisher: Imagining Success as a Writer (and making it happen)

 In a writing workshop, Karen Joy Fowler once told us aspiring writing types that she had encountered many writers she believed were more talented than she was who nevertheless failed to make it into print. (FYI: Karen is an amazing writing teacher, by the way—tops all others despite the awesomeness of many of the writers I’ve gotten to learn from.)

She attributed this most from a failure to persist and carry projects through. Writers write, yes, but novelists finish

I keep coming back to that bit of advice, and thanks to Karen, I envision myself in something like that reading status bar at the bottom of an e-reader: wherever I am in my writing process, I’m thinking about my position in terms of my final goal, a finished novel.

(Which is not to say that, by any means, I write straight through from beginning to end. I’m more of a start-with-the-marshmallows writer, and when I outline, it’s often backwards outlining—outlining after writing to see the structure of what I have and discover ways of reworking.)

But I try not to lose sight of the fact that I’m working on a grand project, and I will have to persist to find my way to the end. I also try not to lose sight of the fact that writing at all, even if just for 15 minutes a day, moves me closer to that destination. Here’s a bit of positive self-talk from my post-baby, mid-qualifying-exams writer’s notebook:

“Writing doesn’t require brilliance or inspiration so much as persistence. What am I going to do today, tomorrow, and the next day to create a writing routine, however small?”

Bottom line: I want to be a finisher. Bottom line #2: there ought to be a “finisher” T-shirt for writers like there is for marathon runners.


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