Long ago, a writer once told me about some statistics, and they go something like this:
- A huge percentage of people—let’s call it a jillion—think they can write a book.
- Out of that jillion, millions will actually start to write the book.
- Out of those millions, only a small fraction will ever finish the book.
- Even a smaller fraction of that fraction of books written is ever published.
You’ve heard this too, right?
Up until a few years ago, with the advent of self-publishing, writers had little control over that last point. And so, as I was starting my writing career, I threw it out. If I couldn’t control it, why sweat it? I just refused to consider the low probability of publication. What I could control, however, were the first three points.
Of course, I knew I could write a book. After all, I’d already written one for my personal amusement when I was twelve. And then there were all the books I’d dreamed of writing. My friend Melanie and I wrote all the titles for our own Nancy-Drew-like series that we planned during our tween sleepovers.
So when my writer friend quoted those statistics to me when I was a twenty-something, I jumped right into the second point and started writing my book. Wisely, I figured I would never finish it if I didn’t ever start it. It turned out to be awful, and it resides in the bottom drawer of my desk as a sort of trophy.
Because I finished! I was no longer one of the jillions, nor one of the millions. I was a fraction. I was a finisher.
And finishing gave me a sweet release. It still does.
I am not talking about the kind of finishing that includes all the detail work that eventually results in a published book on the shelf. I am talking about “just” finishing a first draft. It is “just” a very big accomplishment! Getting to the end of a story, any story, no matter how flawed it may be and how many more drafts may await it, is a huge milestone. Writing “The End” puts to rest those doubts that always plague the beginning of each project—can I do it this time?
Yes. Yes, you can. Just finish the book.