The Lonely Writer’s Companion

by Lisa Lenard-Cook

February 2012

Starters, Trekkers, and Finishers "…strong starters often run out of steam."
Some of us are good right out of the gate. We’re clever brainstormers—ideas come to us without effort—and we’re equally good at inspiring others with our out-of-the-box approaches. But once we’re past that initial rush of adrenaline, strong starters often run out of steam.

Fortunately (for us, and for those ideas), there are those strong, steady workhorses, people who pick up where we leave off and carry the weight of what we’ve begun, step by (to us quick starters) boring step. The workhorses aren’t bored, though; they’re doing what they do best: seeing a project through its day-to-day journey in the real world.

In fact, if it were up to workhorses, things would proceed that way forever—every step carefully orchestrated, nothing unexpected ever altering their course. In reality, though, every project comes to an end—especially a writing project. That’s where the closers come in—those magicians who can take the ideas of the brainstormers and the hard work of the workhorses and transform them into a polished, complete package.

"Every project requires starters, trekkers, and finishers."
Every project requires starters, trekkers, and finishers. The thing is, when you’re a writer, you’ve got to be all three—and that’s not always easy. A first step toward remedying your weaknesses is to know which you are.

Do you begin a new project enthusiastically, but find your interest waning once you have? If so, like me, you’re a starter. As an example, a quick look at my calendar this morning reminded me this column is due tomorrow, so I came up with this idea—just a few minutes ago—and sat down to write it.

Do you like waking up knowing the day ahead will be like the day before? If so, you’re a trekker, like my husband—strong, steady, dependable, and dogged. Whenever I’ve got to push myself through the middle of a project, I do my best to emulate his example by lowering my head and pushing on through.

Do you see something left undone and pick up the slack, happily tying up every last loose end? If so, you’re an finisher. I’ve found that, with deadlines, I can wrap up my own projects, such as Find Your Story: Write Your Memoir, the book I’m currently writing (with my ABQ Writers Co-op partner Lynn C. Miller) for University of Wisconsin Press, that’s due in May. I also create deadlines even when there aren’t contractual ones looming: 1000 words today, a chapter by Friday.

"…how do you get yourself past the stretches at which you’re weaker? Share your strategies…"
Which are you, a starter, trekker, or finisher? And how do you get yourself past the stretches at which you’re weaker? Share your strategies—or your lack of them— at Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation!
Dissonance, a Novel
by Lisa Lenard-Cook
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PEN-short-listed author Lisa Lenard-Cook’s most recent book is The Mind of Your Story: Discover What Drives Your Fiction (Writer’s Digest), which originated in her columns for Authorlink. With Lynn C. Miller, she’s co-founder of ABQ Writers Co-op (, a creative community for New Mexico writers, and co-editor of the literary magazine Bosque. She’s on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and the Board of Narrative Art Center in Santa Fe. Website: