The agony of the long-distance writer

Next month, my daughter will run a marathon to celebrate a milestone birthday. I marvel at her training routine―10-mile runs, half-marathons, intervals, cross-training. I can’t wait to cheer her on in Aspen.

Although my running days are over, I’ve recently completed a marathon of sorts. I’ve just spent six months revising 26 chapters for my forthcoming book, Business Matters: An Independent Freelancer’s Guide to Business Survival. Today I sent the final section to the publisher.

When I began the project, I was exhilarated by the route ahead. I had wanted to publish a book for years. At the starting line, I had a few jitters, but I soon hit my stride and even experienced the nirvana of “flow,” becoming so fully absorbed in my writing that I was oblivious to my surroundings. At one point while I slaved away in my office, the dog barked and I wondered, “I have a dog???”

However, after a few miles (er, chapters), I began to doubt whether I could ever finish the book. I longed for the whole thing to be over. I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath; as soon as I finished one chapter, the rest of them loomed ahead, up a long, long hill. I thought about quitting.

And then stubbornness kicked in. Even if I ended up crawling on my hands and knees, I would finish this book. No longer worried about making every line perfect, I did the best I could and struggled on to the finish line. Persistence overcame perfectionism.

Tips for completing ambitious writing projects

Pace yourself: A mile is just a mile. A chapter is just a chapter. Knock them off one by one, at a pace that you can handle.

Have a support team who understands: To avoid overburdening friends and family with your whining (it happens), find others with whom you can commiserate. My daughter trains for her marathon with close friends, and while I’m sure some complaining happens between them, I’ve been spared the details. While writing the book, I drew a lot of support from fellow author Marcia Riefer Johnston; not only did she act as a model for me, but she seemed to understand how much I loathed my book as I approached the finish line.

Focus on the finish line: Visualize yourself crossing that finish line with gusto and class. You’re raising your arms, waving to your fans, and celebrating! Although I have some miles to go before the book is released, I feel as though I’ve climbed that last big hill―the rest is a downhill jog.

Reward yourself at every milestone: Rewards don’t have to be big–lunch at your favorite restaurant, a new pair of running shoes, a walk with your dog. When I’ve rested a bit, I’ll be off to purchase a new ceiling fan for my office as my reward for uploading the manuscript. For me, the reward helps achieve closure on a specific phase of the project so that I can think ahead to the next phase–and the next milestone.

When my book is finally published, I’ll continue to celebrate its completion under a gentle breeze from the fan—a soothing reminder that after a lot of agony and self-doubt, I finally finished the “marathon” I’d started.

And then I’ll start on the next book!

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