Getting to the Finish Line of Your Manuscript in the Face of Uncertainty

When my bike’s odometer hit 30 miles last weekend, at the same time as the only cloud in the August Phoenix sky relinquished it’s position in front of the sun, I realized the next 30 miles was going to be brutal. Moisture hung in the air, making the 100 degrees feel more like a hot sauna. The gentle breeze was more reminiscent of a hair dryer in my face. I doubted I could finish the workout. Worse, I doubted the need to put myself through the tough day. Will it matter? Will there even be a race this year?

I pulled to the side of the road, finding a rare and small patch of shade beneath a desert mesquite tree. It was time for a serious personal conversation about why I was training for a race that might be cancelled in an emotionally trying year when the world has been shut down due to Coronavirus. Ironman Arizona is only 3 months away. My training has been a leap of faith that the race will actually occur. So I slog my way through 115 degree Arizona days with over 30% humidity, leaving at 0-dark-30 for runs when it’s still only 90 degrees out or trying to squeeze in 60-80 mile rides in the early morning before the sun turns my flesh into ash.

On the side of that blistering-hot road, under that tiny patch of shade, I had an epiphany (though not the one I was expecting!):

Writing is a lot like endurance triathlon training.

Endurance training is about months (sometimes years) of focus, dedication, exhaustive days, and hard work to cross the finish line. There’s no guarantee we will make it. There’s no guarantee we won’t crash or end up walking during a race and not get to the finish, even after all those months of training. But we keep trying because we believe in the goal so much. We love getting better at what we do. We hope.

Writers are very similar. We write for months, or sometimes years, to painfully craft the perfect story. We find ways to squeeze writing into our other obligations, from family to work or school. We lose sleep. We try to become better writers through classes, conferences, books, or online resources. We query or pitch or self-publish. We hope.

In the end, none of us has any assurance what the finish line for our writing will look like.

But, much like training for uncertain races, writing brings such a sense of accomplishment, hope, self-worth, and belonging that we continue to push ourselves, trying to finish what we started, hoping that others will appreciate what we have created. Hoping to reach the finish line with a sense of accomplishment. For some, the finish line is typing “The End.” For others, it’s entering a pitch contest or getting an agent manuscript request.

It isn’t easy.

To continue your writing goal, there will be rough days. Days you need to pull to the side of the road and have a chat with yourself to remember why. Why you push yourself. Why your started writing. Why it’s so important to not give up and keep trying.

And then, reinvigorated, climb back on that bike, and head back onto the road until you get to your finish line.

Happy Writing!

“The End”

2 thoughts on “Getting to the Finish Line of Your Manuscript in the Face of Uncertainty

  1. I liken writing to endurance sports too, and my favourite analogy for it is running. It’s often a slog and feels totally dumb when you’re pounding the pavement, but there is a reason why you do it, and one of it is finding yourself.

    Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that analogy. I also think with running, every days seems like such a little bit toward any big goal, until you look back and realize how may miles you have covered over time. I think writing is probably like that, too. Do you find you get good story or scene ideas while running?

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