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Finishing Thoughts (Honest)
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Part of what I've been doing lately is trying to alter my definition of writing success to bring it a little more into line with reality. I recall when I was participating in road races, I'd often be pleased with my effort, even though I was a middle of the pack runner at best. When I sometimes edged into the top half of the field I was thrilled. That's because I knew I was not in the least athletic and had been utterly sedentary until I turned 40. Just covering the distance was a triumph for me. If I had entered races with the ridiculous and impossible goal of finishing first I would've felt like a miserable failure every time.

Granted, writing differs from a road race in that it is theoretically possible for anyone who writes a book to "win" by, say, becoming a bestselling author. But I think the chances are so remote and beyond the writer's control that it isn't realistic to pin too many hopes on such an outcome. If you have a manuscript in hand you've got a ticket. You might win. But it's just a bet at ridiculously long odds, not a career plan.

Although we can strive to control our actions we can't control the results of those actions and goals are too often seen in terms of results. One of my favorite baseball players, Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton, used to explain that when he pitched he envisioned himself as simply playing catch with his catcher. He didn't think about the batter but simply concentrated on putting the ball where he wanted it. If he managed to throw the ball to the right spot and the batter hit it anyway...well, that was beyond his control and didn't concern him.

When I ran I concentrated on just covering the distance. I knew if I trained enough and "raced" slowly enough, barring injury, I'd finish. Writing is like running in that to have a chance at any kind of success you first have to be able to finish. If you can complete a book length manuscript -- or even a story -- that's an achievement in itself, and the one aspect of the whole writing business you can control. It's useless to fret about the results, let alone aim for specific results.

I am of course trying to convince myself of this because I think it is correct and hope one day to actually be able to practice what I preach. And I shall now try my best to refrain from pontificating on writing for long enough to actually do some.

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