Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Seventh Mile - The Art of Finishing

Repost from a few months ago over at InkSlingers.

I recently conducted some statistical analysis on my life and discovered a phenomenon I've termed "The Seventh Mile."

Memorial Day weekend I participated in the Soldier Field 10-mile Run (for which I acquired the shiny new t-shirt I am currently wearing). I trained for months prior to the race (following a program), and got to a place where I could consistently run 6.5 miles any time I wanted. Slowly, but always with a predictable result.

You know what happened the day of the race? When I reached that seventh mile, my body assumed I was done. That's what I'd trained it to do - go about seven miles and then stop.

A year ago, I started working seriously on my second manuscript. When it was about two-thirds of the way finished, I decided to set it aside for an idea that I thought would be more marketable. Now, that third manuscript is also two-thirds of the way done.

I'm nothing if not consistent.

And I'm in danger of training my writer-brain into a rut - a repeatable result of coming up short. There is something to be said for practicing the art of finishing.

I watch a lot of sports and study a lot of athletes. When you look at your Kobe Bryants and Peyton Mannings, the experts always want to talk about how they prepare, train, maintain control and relish the clutch moments - because they are READY for them.

I want to pattern my writing life after them. Study the competition, do fundamental exercises, study the craft and the business... I want to be the best conditioned, the most prepared, etc so that I can avoid that seventh mile trap in the future.

During the run, I walked that seventh mile. I nursed my fatigue and my side stitch and put one foot in front of the other. When I got to mile eight, I felt better. And when I hit mile nine, I could actually SEE the finish line and struggled to control my adrenaline so that I didn't run too fast and completely destroy myself.

The point is, I finished. It wasn't pretty, but I made it. You don't get style points for your process - just your finished product. One keystroke at a time, I'll give it a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even if at first it sucks, I will practice the art of finishing.

What would you like to practice "finishing" today?


  1. I know exactly what I mean. When I was younger I used to write every night before my 9:00 bedtime. That meant that I'd stop writing at exactly 8:45 every night. Then, even when my bedtime changed and got later, I found that my mind would just shut down at 8:45. Eventually I worked past this, but it took a long time!

    Oh, and I saw on your other post that you managed to finish the novel. Congrats! Is this your first finished novel? For some reason I had the idea that you had finished other novels, but then this post makes me not so sure. Right now I've got 81k on my current WIP, which is probably going to end up being around 100k long. It's by far the longest book I've ever written (I've got a half finished novel at around 50k, and then two finished novels at 64k) but I really believe in it, so hopefully it will be done within the next couple weeks!

  2. Elanor, congrats on your progress! I currently have two "finished" manuscripts. Best of luck with your WiP, looking forward to seeing what happens with it!