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September 16, 2009

The Ninety-Nine One Hundred

This Extra Ink was written by Betsy C.

In his wonderful book Mountains Beyond Mountains, biographer Tracy Kidder describes visionary Dr. Paul Farmer's pet peeves. Chief among them is the "ninety-nine one hundred," or the tendency that some people have to stop work on a project when they've already done the majority of the work.

The final step is, in some ways, even more important than the first. Whether you're working to save lives like Paul Farmer or just trying to finish your homework, you can't do your best until you've pulled through your work 100%.

For lots of creative teens, it's not getting a great idea that's the problem; it's seeing that idea through to the end. How many drawings have you started, only to give up when you hit a snag partway through? Or what about that poem or novel gathering cyber-dust on your hard drive, waiting for that last stanza or chapter before it can get to a printer?

It's easy for someone else to look at your almost-finished work and scoff at your inability to complete it. But plenty of people need help with just that: getting the stamina and the support to see their projects through to the end.

Reading Mountains Beyond Mountains is a great way to get inspired. (If you liked Three Cups of Tea, you'll love this one.) But there are other places where you can get help, too!

One interesting website is actually called The 99 Percent. They're geared toward creative professionals, but anyone with an unfinished project can benefit from the articles and advice on their website.

Another great thing to do is join a writing group, or tell a teacher or another adult whose opinion you value about your project and when you expect to be finished. Knowing that people you respect are holding you to a deadline can definitely get your gears turning.

If you've been working on something for a long time, sometimes you can't even stand to look at it, let alone keep working. But we've all got to get there in the end if we want rewards for the hard work we've already put in. Just consider this quote from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens:

"Character is the ability to carry through with your resolutions long after the spirit in which they were made has passed."

So it comes down to this: how much character have YOU got?

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