Saturday, November 3, 2018

How To Finish: Three Hurdles Every Writer Must Overcome

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

I was so excited about doing this post. I’d just completed the climax for my work-in-progress and it looked like I would be writing those beautiful words, The End, just as I would start writing this post. It was all going so well, until . . .

It wasn’t.

For the last few days my writing has been stuck. But the clothes basket is empty, and my email box. And I keep looking out the window at things that need to be done in the yard.

I’m looking anywhere but at the computer.

Four scenes from the end of the book that I’ve worked on for nearly six months and suddenly it looks like a bowl of overcooked Brussels sprouts. Eew.

And I’m not surprised at all.

See, I’ve been through this before. And, after reading Finish, by Jon Acuff, I’ve learned that others have, too. This is a book Cynthia Owens recommended and mentioned in her December 5, 2017 post.

Coming close to the end is just one of three hurdles our brains, or what he calls perfectionism, throw in front of writers. The beginning, the middle, and the end; they all carry their own reasons to distract or derail the writer, or the artist, or anyone who is planning to do something new.

How many of us want to start something? Just not yet. You have to do more research, or clear your schedule, or need to take a class, or . . .

And you never start. Which is good, because if you never start, then you can’t fail, right? But then, you can’t succeed either.

Nanowrimo is this month and a lot of people planned to join in and write a book this month, in thirty days. And it’s day three, and you haven’t started.

You tell yourself, why start now. You’ll never reach fifty thousand words in twenty-seven days. Right?

But whatever you write will be more than you have now. There’s no magic in thirty days. Take what time you need.

One thing that helps you start something is to nail down why you want to do it. Write it down. When the hurdles get high, bring that out and use it for encouragement.

Back in the old days when I ran, there was a saying: Dead last is better than did not finish which is better than did not start.

A cool thing about setting a big goal is that you don’t have to do it all at once. When I started running, I couldn’t get around the block without my lungs spontaneously combusting. 

A week later, I finished the block. A month later, a mile. Over a year later, a half marathon.

When you start something, it helps to break it up into small bits. (Unless it’s having a baby. Then you have to plunge in.) Instead of thinking about writing your first novel, write a scene, or write for two hours, even fifteen minutes. Then build on that.

The middle is another place you can get tripped up. The finish looks soo faaarrr. It’s taking longer than you expected. This is hard.

Acuff makes a good and simple suggestion. Instead of looking at how far you still have to go, look at how far you’ve come. You did start, you are growing, and you are closer to your goal than you were.

Keep focused on your small goal. The next hill, the next chapter, the next class. Keep moving forward.

One reason I quit running is that it takes time. Running is no longer a priority for me. I do still exercise, but in other ways.

Here’s a genius thought for you. You can’t do everything. Say after me, I can’t do everything. (Caught in your throat, didn’t it?)

First, so why are you trying?

Second, then this means you have to set your, emphasize your, priorities. Where do you want to use your limited time? Then schedule it.

It’s okay for you to tell people no. (If this is hard for you, tell them I said so.)

Third, it’s okay to quit. I think we should quit more. We should definitely teach our kids that it’s okay to quit.

But they may become quitters, you say.

No, they may become starters. Remember the limited time. Why do they have to end the soccer/football/cross country season when they hate it and aren’t improving? Help them find something (another sport/band/volunteer) where they can succeed. And you won’t have to sit in the rain watching them sulk on the bench.

I’ve learned that I often don’t know if I’ll like something, or what all is involved, until I try it. And I may quickly learn I hate it. In that case, I want to use that time on something that I’ll enjoy. (Except dirty diapers. It gets easier the more you do it. Yeah, that’s it.)

So, you’ve stuck with it almost to the end. And you get in the situation I’m in. You just can’t write that last part.

For my situation this time (because every situation is different), I’ve decided I’m going to do a few things.

3 Things to Help
1. I’m trying different endings to see which one will excite me more. Maybe my subconscious realizes something isn’t right with my story. I’ll give it a chance to show me another answer.

2. I will finish it this week. Later than my original deadline, but that’s okay. Sometimes to finish, you need to realize you need more time or need to cut down the size of the goal. Just remember, the main thing is to finish.

3. I’m not working in the yard or starting my next project until I get this done. Even though the leaves are falling and there are some dead plants that need digging up that are driving me crazy. That desire to move to something else will spur me to get this finished.

4. I’m giving myself grace. Acuff writes that one of the reasons we don’t finish is that we think it won’t be perfect.

News flash. It’s not going to be perfect. I’ll have lots of rewriting and editing to do. When you finish the race and have your picture done, you’re going to be sweaty and your hair will look terrible. But you’ll have finished, and your smile will be so broad, you won’t notice your hair.

Bottom Line
What’s keeping you from finishing? Is that keeping you from growing? From doing something you feel God wants you to? That you want to do?

Jon Acuff’s Finish does a good job of identifying struggles that may hinder us or keep us from reaching our goals. And it’s a good read.

The first step in anything is to start. Then make yourself trudge up that hill. All the way to and over the finish line.

Soon, very soon, I’ll be typing those two glorious words: The End.

Then I’ll get to go outside and mow the grass.

Where are you struggling or what part was the hardest for you to get through? I would love to hear your story in the comments below. I’ll bet you aren’t the only one having that struggle.


Tim Suddeth has been published in Guideposts’ The Joy of Christmas and on He’s working on his third manuscript and looks forward to seeing his name on a cover. He is a member of ACFW and Cross n Pens. Tim’s lives in Greenville, SC with his wife, Vickie, and his happy 19-year-old autistic son, Madison.  Visit Tim at and on Facebook and Twitter. He can be also reached at


  1. Well said Mr. Tim. My biggest hurdle is not putting down the pen, but accepting that God will place my writing (that He led me to write) where He wants it and not where I think it should be. Learning to accept that my job as a Christian author isn't "selling my book", it's following His leading in my life for His glory. Thank you so much for these great tips. God's blessings sir.

  2. Your problem is finishing? I am the opposite; my problem is getting started. However, once I start I find it hard to stop.
    Great post, Tim. I pray you get to type 'the end' soon and I stop procrastinating.

  3. Thank you for this encouraging blog. I was feeling bad that I started the Nanowriting business and was derailed on the second day by a lot of unexpected family things that couldn't be ignored. I still managed 1,000 words because I stayed up until midnight, but I had failed the goal. Dark thoughts began brooding. You are right. I will do my best with the challenge, given what comes. I will be ahead of where I would be if I hadn't even started. I want a solid draft so I can still make that goal whether it is done in 30 days or 40. And you are right about how easy it is to procrastinate! Good luck with your own list. Thanks again.

    1. God never asks for more than our best effort Ms. Michelle. I just know you're going to get on track soon. Can't wait to see your finished novel one day. God's blessings ma'am.

  4. Keep writing. You never know where it will take you.