I made my fourth attempt at the Couch to 5K program recently. This time, I finished.

Then I started to feel a weird numbness. A tingling. I was completing the runs, getting the distance, keeping up with the amount of time I was supposed to be running, but it hurt. I went to the internet, consulted some websites, and talked with a friend who has more running experience.

I didn’t want to stop running, but I didn’t want to injure myself. I looked at the suggestions my friend gave me, tried some new exercises, stretches, etc. and went out for another run.

This time was different. This time, I paid more attention to how I was running and confronted the fact that I hadn’t been conditioning myself to be a better runner. I had conditioned myself to endure the pain of running poorly.

But what does that have to do with writing?

If you don’t do the work, you will hurt yourself.

With running, I was just lacing up my shoes and throwing my body out into the world, hoping to hit some metric that would mean I’d succeeded at getting more in shape. I wasn’t being mindful of how best to accomplish this.

You can have written as many drafts as you want, every time hitting between 90 to 110 pages, and it won’t matter if you’re not mindful of what’s on those pages. You can make a deadline and not have it matter because what’s there isn’t the best work you could do.

Look at the ScriptShadow Twit-Pitch Results, and how the recurring theme is that people sent in work that was unpolished and unready. Each and every person who raced to finish a draft full of spelling errors and flawed plotting now has a review of their work up for all to see that calls them out on being unprofessional.

Another example: A producer told me that after reading a disappointing script, they met with the person who had sent it to them to discuss it. The sender was defensive and said something to the effect of, “I know it’s not a good script, but it could sell.” The producer stopped considering scripts sent by that person from that moment forward.

If you don’t do the work, you will hurt yourself.

You won’t feel it with writing the same way with running. Missed opportunities don’t have the immediate and acute sting of a pulled muscle, but they are every bit as real a consequence of a lack of mindful focus on your efforts.

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