You Can’t Win

Starting out a new year always seems like "Woo! A fresh beginning! A chance to start over!" with the implication that "This time, I'll do it right!"


I've got a couple of nits to pick with that.

First, the same applies to every morning. I prefer to look at each new day as a chance to start again. Every day is a New Year's Day, even if it's a Wednesday in the middle of April. Don't get me wrong. Year end is a year beginning and that's cool. It's like a door into the future - as soon as we enter, we can pretend everything gets reset. But if I get off on the wrong foot on January 15th, I'm screwed on an annual framework. When I only have to get through today? Well, Ground Hog Day. I can get up tomorrow and do something different.

Second, I'm not convinced "do it right" is a meaningful construct. The difficulty for me is figuring out what "right" is. Most times, I don't know until after I've done it whether it was right or not - 20/20 hindsight and all that. What's been more interesting to me is that I seem to learn the most from doing it "wrong" -  what I thought was "wrong" turned out to be pretty darn good. I'm not saying "Go break a window," but maybe you keep using that word "wrong" and I do not think it means what you think it means. At least not always.

Which brings me to looking at outlook, looking forward, and an aphorism that is more canard than value. You've probably heard it:

Writing isn't a sprint. It's a marathon.

Here's the thing.

It's half right. Writing isn't a sprint.

It's half wrong. Writing isn't a marathon.

By trying to treat it as a race of any kind, it sounds like there should be a finish line. A tape you can break with your chest as you cross that line or a trophy you can collect on the way out of the stadium.

Maybe it's different for you, but for me, writing is neither sprint nor marathon. It's not a race. It's a way of life and nobody gets out alive. While that may sound moribund, for me it's an important reminder that, however we look at writing, we each have a finite amount of time to practice our craft. I see that as a challenge worth rising to. I see that as a really good reason to keep getting up every morning and putting on my writing shoes. It's a good reminder at this cusp of a year that whatever happened last year happened. What matters most is what happens today, and I'll see what I can do to make sure I leave as many good stories behind as I can without worrying about whether or not I'm winning.

Because with writing, you can't win. You can only do.

Here's to a productive and prosperous new year to all my friends in RMFW. May you all keep doing.

Image credit: Webweaver's Clipart
Nathan Lowell
Nathan Lowell has been self-publishing his science fiction and fantasy since he started releasing his books in podcast form in 2007.

He frequently writes about social media, marketing, and the life of a full time self-published author.

10 thoughts on “You Can’t Win

  1. I consider myself a winner every day when I reach my word count goal. Sure, there are some days when I won’t make it, but there are plenty of days when I go past my arbitrary finish line.

    • We’re all winners one way or another but you can’t win at writing. You can meet or exceed today’s goal or publish the next book or take whatever the next step is.

      But there’s always going to be tomorrow.

      Writing is like laundry. You can catch up for now but there will always be more. Unlike laundry, getting somebody else to do it defeats the purpose

      • And tomorrow I can win again! True, writing is never ‘finished’ but I like to measure small successes. And athletes who win a race, a game, a title, know that there’s going to be another race to run, another game to play, another title to vie for.

  2. I’m learning to regroup at the beginning of each month instead of trying to set a year’s worth of goals and ToDos. Works better for me to have lots of new beginnings…maybe I should start thinking in terms of weekly goals too.

    • It’s Nathan’s! We had some technical difficulties this morning (which is why it posted late), and I had to fiddle with it some, so it showed my name for a few minutes.

      Excellent post, Nathan–thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Thanks for the smile with my morning coffee, Nathan. “Go break a window” — LOL! I think I’ll make some fresh, new mistakes today, and learn, learn, learn!
    I do set weekly goals, which are less overwhelming than a year’s worth.
    I love the freedom in your message. Thank you!

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