Writer Fail #23: How to Finish.

Anne LaMotte tells the story of her younger brother, who had got himself into a pickle on his homework. Allegedly, all year he was supposed to be drawing different types of North American birds, then handing them into his teacher.

And lo, the day before it was due, he had yet to sketch a single one.

LaMotte’s father saw his son in a fuss about it, and asked him what the problem was. He explained, and LaMotte’s father (a writer by profession), sat down and said, “Just take it bird by bird, son.”

LaMotte transfers this sentiment into the writing world, and I agree. I’ve tried a novel in a month – it’s productive, sure. But it’s not enjoyable. Writing is a turtle’s game, not a hare’s game. If you try to finish in a hurry, you’ll quit.

And that’s why we need to think bird-by-bird. I’ve learned it’s not good for me to think about finishing my manuscript, because it always feels impossible. I pick up books and think, “How did they DO that? They must have magic fingers…”

Because that’s what it feels like.

But when I just take it one day – one page, one word – at a time, eventually, I find, I finish just fine.

And I’m always surprised at it. And that’s the way it ought to feel.

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Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.