Going the Distance

Have you ever felt like you’re writing in circles? Have you ever felt like you’re writing in circles? Have you ever felt like you’re writing in circles?

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The writing race track can be monotonous and dizzying. We all go through days when the words won’t come, the concept falls flat, and the plot is pointless. If a few words actually make it onto the page, they are lifeless. Should we press on past the caution flag or pull it in for a pit stop?



It’s NaNoWriMo month. Writing a novel in a month is a daunting task. We want our cars to reach to the finish line. It’s a time to come together, hope for the finish line, and pat each other on the back. With such a long haul ahead and only a short amount of time to achieve victory, it easy to break down. So, what gets you through when you’re out of gas?

An overwhelmed or tired brain is a flat tire on the interstate. If we don’t change it out for a spare, a crash is unavoidable. It’s not uncommon for writing engines to sputter. With deadlines looming, sometimes the only choice we have is to get to work. Knowing how to service our engines will help us avoid break downs.


  1. Shift gears.

Run an errand, clean the sink, go for a walk, grab a cup of joe, run in place, pick up the dog doo, do a craft, organize your shoes, or solve a Rubik’s cube.

We’re not talking anything fancy here, people. Just enough time to allow your mind to focus on something else. Maybe that doggie doo will make your writing seem more appealing?

  1. Connect the battery.

Our emotional health depends on connections. We internally desire closeness to something, whether or not it’s alive. A friend, a parent, a pet, or even a neighbor can reengage our brains. We can be close to a book, a marathon, a puzzle, or a manuscript.  Find your connections.

Writing can be a lonely profession. Critique partners are a must. But think twice before sending them the scrap metal you pulled out of the junk yard. You’ll only get their fresh eyes once.


  1. Put on the brakes.

Slow down. That’s right, it’s okay to slow down. Celebrate small victories. The fastest car does not win in this race.

  1. Park your car.

It’s elementary, yes.  But putting a manuscript away for long periods of time is necessary. When we see an opportunity or goal, it’s admirable to go the distance. But would you drive across the country in a car that needs work? When we get too close to a project, it’s difficult to see what needs fixing. It’s amazing what three, six, or twelve months can do to cure your night vision.

  1. Take another car for a ride.

Don’t worry. Old Bessie won’t get jealous. When she’s parked in the garage, pull out a manuscript that’s been parked for a while.

  1. Use cruise control.

Let someone else take the wheel. Put your feet on the dash. Drive down the highway at 70 miles an hour. Crank the windows open. Take in the scenery and scents. Enjoy a short vacation. One hour, one day or maybe even a week. Whatever the time, no work allowed. Thirty miles, five hundred, or maybe two thousand. Reward yourself with a clear mind.

Cruise control allows you to take back some of what you’re missing. In the end, you’ll find focus and finish the race at a speed that works for you.

What gets you through when you’re having engine trouble?


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