Watching talented athletes perform gravity defying moves during the Olympics makes me feel a tad bit earthbound, wingless, yet I know that what they are unleashing besides their battle with gravity is a deep creative process, a part of themselves that lives to challenge their limitations, to soar away from “regular reality” into another plane of existence. This week, I felt an aha about the writing process as I watched skaters lift and soar and skiers fly. As writers, we create an alternate world beyond our day-to-day existence, imaginative spaces where something called Story lives and breathes and takes us away from gravity into another realm. Where magic happens, people are inspired to live differently, to love differently. Where people forgive decades long wounds, where hope is forged—through Story.
I noticed many similarities to writing and the Olympic winter sports.
- You have to have discipline—and come back day after day to try again.
- It takes passion that’s renewed day after day to create a special world on the pages of your book.
- You need to develop the skills and craft to create stories that will reach out and inspire others.
- To be a writer means having a commitment to your craft, and to returning humbly to the desk even when you get a rejection slip.
- Even if you “win” by being published, you can still get better. So you come back again to create another story. And another.
- It takes a team to be in the writing Olympics—none of us can do this alone. Your team is your family, friends, writing buddies, editor, agent, publisher, publicist, and your cat or dog.
- You need a coach to help you develop your writing skills—and to challenge you to do more and do better.
- You have to be like one of the American skaters, who fell hard in the men’s skating competition. When you fall and things look really bad, you get up and try again. He got a standing ovation.
- You need to endure hardship, discomfort and disappointment. You become good at cheering on the success of others while you bend down to work hard.
- Being on a team with people like you gives meaning to the challenges, and makes you part of a community that supports you, even if they get the Gold Medal and you don’t.
Some of the sports challengers skied the best they could even when there was no chance for a medal, or they flipped high on the half-pipe, or they skated with all their hearts. Their success was that they did the best they could at that moment, and they completed their event.
Writing a book is a long-term marathon, not a single event. It takes practice—some say an apprenticeship of ten years. In this era of instant everything, the real Gold comes with endurance and determination, with stick-to-itiveness and working for the joy of it, not just the reward.
Of course, when we get our gold medal, or an article is published, or someone likes our blog, or we get a great review for our book, we are thrilled. We celebrate and pat ourselves on the back, and we go out there and thank our team. Some stories will never be rewarded with publication or a medal, but if you were proud of it, if you learned something writing that story, if you feel so strongly about it that you continue to try to birth it into the larger world so you can share it, you are a winner.
When the teams go back home, some competitors will have medals and some just the fantastic memories of being part of the Olympics this year. They will don their skates or put on their skis or snowboards and continue their sport. For the love of it. And they will continue to get better.
What are you doing this week with your book?
Thanks for writing this. I’ve been looking at writing this memoir as an event and putting it off until tomorrow…….. This simple and elegant principle has made a profound impact on me today. What a blessing!
Linda, Thanks for this wonderful post and the inspiration I sometimes find lacking when I sit down at my computer to write. Doing what writers do is just as demanding and challenging as skiing through those impossible moguls or trying to learn how to spin in mid air without crashing. It is a daily practice and one that can bring out the best in us.
I love the analogy to dedicated athletes! All so true. Thanks for reminding us that first, we are not the only ones struggling with our art and craft; and second, that we need to keep our focus on the goal: writing the best we can, practicing over and over again, carrying on even when discouraged, and constantly learning and improving. And hopefully finding joy in the process and outcome!