A Game of Inches

I was recently reminded of the value of taking little steps to achieve a big goal. If you’re a football fan, you are probably familiar with the phrase, “It’s a game of inches,” made popular by a screaming Al Pacino in the 1999 film, Any Given Sunday.

I truly believe that writing is also a game of inches. That’s how I wrote my very first novel. I had no idea what I was doing and it would be another ten years before that book actually became a published novel, but I started by simply telling myself to write a few paragraphs every day.

Writing a book seemed impossible, even writing a chapter, but a paragraph? I could do that.

At the time I was trapped on our hillside farm with three small children (my husband was often on the other side of the globe for business). Every day during nap time, I wrote myself away to a different world, one where I was in control (which was decidedly not the case in my present world).

What started out as a few lines a day grew into a few pages a day. I didn’t think about the outcome or even what was coming next.

[This for the uninitiated is called ‘pantsing’ or writing by the seat of your pants. Those of us who practice this style of writing are called ‘pantsers’ (as opposed to writers who are ‘plotters’ who plot out their books ahead of time).]

It was all about the inches –gaining a few more each day moved me toward the goal line.

Seven books later, that’s I still practice the game of inches.

Every day on my to-do list are two items: ‘WUH’ (my abbreviation for the novel in progress with the working title ‘What You Have’) and ‘WWLDO’ (the abbreviation for Who Will Let the Dogs Out, the nonfiction book I am working on that offers solutions for our current animal shelter crisis).

Many days are crowded with other important tasks, but every day I open each of these documents and claim another inch. I might only edit a page (or a paragraph) or shuffle cards around in Scrivener (the software I’m using to write/organize the WWLDO manuscript).

It’s not how much I accomplish, it’s simply the act of opening the documents and setting my heart and eyes on them each day, knowing I am inching them forward.

I think the game of inches is a powerful tool for writing, but I also think it can be applied to pretty much any goal. This time of year many of us set goals. I have a few beyond finishing WUH and WWLDO.

  • Raise my Goodreads goal to 112 (that’s going to require that I read one more book a month).
  • Review every book I finish, even if it’s just a line or two.

NOTE: as an author I SO appreciate people who rate/review so if I’m going to expect this of my readers, I’d better demand it of myself.

  • I may regret saying this publicly but…I’m going to start running again. I’ve taken a nearly three year hiatus from running, but I promised my husband (who started running during my hiatus!?) that I would start again as soon as we had a fenced dog yard (it finally happened this week).

I’m considering a few others, but three is plenty for now.

How about you? Do you have any goals? Anything you can apply the game of inches to? You can bet I’ll be applying it to my goal of running. A few more inches each day and maybe I’ll make it to the end of our road by summer.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.



My latest novel, Blind Turn is a mother-daughter story of forgiveness in the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident. Learn more about it and find out how to get your copy here.

If you’re curious about what else I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my occasional e-newsletter, click here.

And If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you want to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this country, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

My book, 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.

Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at CaraWrites.com.

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