I’m Just Saying: Finish Your Writing

Tuesday, June 04, 2013
With a house full of kids, my mom had a saying for everything.

Caught in a lie? She’d pull out Sir Walter Scott: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Feeling sorry for yourself? Time for a little “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

I suppose it was easier (and quicker) to throw out a pithy saying, rather than go into a long lecture (which we wouldn’t listen to, anyway). And I remember a ton of those sayings. The ones drumming through my wee little head today involve work.

“A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.”

“Once a job is first begun, never leave it till it’s done.
Be the labor large or small, do it well or not at all.”

And what, you ask, is my writing point? I think you have an idea, without me going into a long lecture. But I will, anyway.

Finish your writing. It’s that simple.

And I have a couple simple reasons to back up my point. On why you should complete that 40-page manuscript you left in some forgotten file. Or why it’s worth your time to finish that first draft of a flash fiction piece. Or even why you should update your blog posts and your presence.

Reason 1:  I’m seeing more and more that agents are looking for writers with a body of work. Sending out one golden manuscript may get an agent’s attention, but what if the agent asks, “What else you got?” It doesn’t mean you need a pile of golden manuscripts. I think it’s important, though, that you have at least three finished (and somewhat presentable) manuscripts. Work that says, “I’m invested in my career.” That’s what makes an agent want to invest her time and effort in you.

Reason 2:  Every time you walk away from a piece of writing without completing it—whether it’s a short story, an article, or a flash of 250 words—you’re giving up. It’s true that not every idea is worth submitting. Certainly, not all of my finished drafts go through editing and revisions. But quitting on a piece can become a bad habit. Wouldn't you rather get in the habit of challenging yourself? Of figuring out an ending? Or finding a hook? Or basking in a moment of accomplishment?

Reason 3:  Even your basic blog needs to show your writing stick-to-itness. There’s no rule that says you have to post every day, or once a week, or once a month. But it’s a good rule to set some sort of schedule and stick to it. Your blog may be your only online presence. You want your writing to say, “Yep, I’m the reliable type. You can count on me—and my writing.”

Honestly, I could pull out a few more reasons, but this lecture’s gone on long enough. Besides, Mom also said (on many occasions), “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink.”

Not that y’all are horses in any way, shape or fashion. But I think you get my pithy point.

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

No, most of the people who know me don't think of me as a horse, they think of me as being in the donkey category. I don't know why...

Cathy, all three of your reasons are good ones, but right now, reason #2 is ringing especially true. Figuring a way out of the corner, writing over the hump, maintaining interest in order to finish a piece--those are all important when building a writer's stamina.

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Love this post. Especially # 3. Thanks for this. Many good points to help kick procrastination in the pants, and to not "horse around" with our writing! :-)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Absolutely, Sioux! Builds (writer) character, as my mom would say.

And Jennifer, you made me laugh out loud with your punny comment!

Marcia Peterson said...

Love it Cathy! #2 has always been important for me. Gotta get those notes and drafts polished up into finished pieces. It builds confidence and momentum.

Margo Dill said...

I agree with all the writing points you made, but I have to say that for me, the takeaway with this post is. . .your mom's pithy comments. I can't wait to start using those with my own kids tomorrow! :) LOL

Cathy C. Hall said...

Margo, I'll send you Mom's List of Pithy Sayings, guaranteed to get results. ;-)

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