Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 47: “I’ve started working on this article so many times; I’m never going to finish it.”

Research shows that if a person has ever stopped smoking, their chances of quitting permanently are higher (Caponnetto and Polosa 2008).

That is, what may seem to be a failure, relapsing, is actually a sign of future success.

So, you have to look at your previous writing attempts differently: if you have ever done some writing, your chances of getting more writing done are good.

I received an email that perfectly proved this point, that many authors publish articles only after several false starts and reboots.

When the author was a beginning graduate student in history, he received a copy of the writing workbook as a gift in 2009. He started using the book several times but never made his way through.

When he received his Ph.D. in May 2014, he again set out to use the workbook to write his first article, hoping to complete it by August 2014. Unfortunately, fall course preparation for his new tenure-track job got in the way.

But that December 2014 and January 2015, he used the workbook to push the article along, inspired by a new CFP for a special issue in an important journal in his field. Then the journal extended its deadline, he sent the article to his advisors for feedback, and while working on a conference paper based on the article, he missed the journal’s extended deadline.

Then, he dropped the article again to do fall 2015 course preparation, but in December 2015 he managed to finalize the article and send it to a journal.

In March 2016, he received notice that the journal had accepted his article pending revisions.

He spent two months revising it and the article went into the July 2016 issue of the journal.

In his email to me, he didn’t castigate himself for stopping and starting or taking twenty months (or six years) to write the article. Which is so great! He dwelled on what did happen, not on what didn’t happen. He got published! That’s all that matters. 

Believe me, when published authors look at their curriculum vitae, they never think about how long their publications took to write. They are just glad to see them there.

Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 47, in addition to the obstacles listed on page 31 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).