The Olympics are on which means I am periodically weeping on my couch. You’d think I was watching The Notebook I get so blubberly. It’s not that I have a favorite person I’m rooting for, or that world records are being made or that this taps into some kind of competitive animal inside me (only Trivia does that), it’s the athlete’s sheer determination and dedication that rips me up.
In the final seconds of swimming, as I crane my neck toward the TV wondering whose fingertips will touch the wall first, my tear canal locks get so full, there is nothing left to do but open the gates for a flood. I can’t help it. All those arms are chopping through the water at full force. The sportscaster’s passionate play by play makes my heart race and every swimmer in their lane seems like they fighting for their lives. They are giving it their all and that inspires the hell out of me.
Keep going I say to myself. Stay focused. You can accomplish the things you dream about if you stick to your goals. I’m not talking to the TV, I’m talking to myself about writing my book. There are so many great lessons that play out when you watch the Olympics. For example, I didn’t hear any athlete say, “Oh shit, Phelps is here? I might as well not swim. He’s better than me. He’s favored to win the gold.” I didn’t see any athletes slow down or give up even if they saw the person next to them advance. Even when the crowds roared in the ears of the swimmers who were still a quarter pool length away, they still powered their way through on their own clock
What a great thing to remember when I catch myself thinking, how will I finish my book knowing Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) and Liar’s Club and Lit (Mary Karr) are already the Gold Medal winners?
Watching the Olympics reminds me yes, I should strive for the medal but there is also pride in doing my personal best no matter who I’m up against.
I was recently notified that I did not win a Writing Fellowship that I applied for, but get this, I was Runner Up! Was I disappointed I didn’t win? Hell yes! Am I excited I got Runner Up? Hell yes! I worked my butt off on my application for two weeks and gave it all that I had. I had two friends proof it. I wrote out every essay question like it was going to be engraved permanently somewhere and it was, in my own head and heart. There were moments while I wrote out the application when I thought, okay I can loosen up a little here; good enough can be good enough. Every time I caught myself saying that, I asked myself am I capable of more? If the answer was yes, I told my seductive friend resistance to take a hike.
I don’t think any of the guys or ladies in the pool are thinking, should I just put in a so-so effort today? Should I not even dive in knowing that Phelps or Franklin wants the same thing I want? No, all the swimmers start strong and end strong. If that doesn’t make your eyes well up, then I don’t know what.
In the end, I felt proud of what I submitted. My personal best. Even though I didn’t win, Runner Up is pretty sweet. I even got a prize and a gracious and generous letter! Putting in your best effort still counts because you’ll never know if you’ll lose by a long shot or win only by a hundredth of a second.
Shoot, that’s the inspiration that pulses through me in the final minutes of the race, never mind when I see one of the vignettes on the athlete’s life and what it took for them to get here.
Blubberly Blubberly mess. (insert soundtrack for The Notebook here)
I seriously wish I could bottle and drink from that inspiration every day and not, for one second, forget it. Right now, I’m in abundance but why is it in human nature to forget?
I’d like to keep an extra vial of it on hand for when I see a friend needs it too.
I know a writer who finished her manuscript and found an agent, that’s like qualifying for the Olympics if you ask me. BRAVO! You gotta be great to get there. You only need to ask a writer who has a half-finished manuscript in their drawer how much determination and dedication it takes to finish it, much less find an agent who’s interested. It is not an easy process. Hell, one re-write can set you back into a pair of emotional sweatpants from where there seems to be no extrication.
Wanting to write a book is like training for the Olympics. You can have a natural aptitude for writing, but working on craft and trying to expose emotional truths so that others relate to it can be grueling. 12 hours of mind trampoline training a day. You’re liable to sprain your wrist on the laptop! You have to make it great, not good, not good enough. Then you have to convince a publishing house that it is great. It’s an exhausting road.
Ever wrestle yourself to the floor? That’s what writing can feel like even if you’re sitting by a picturesque window with steam rising from a tea cup and a leather journal by your side. Every writer knows that some days resemble Fight Club.
The fight’s in your head.
It ain’t pretty to train but you do get stronger.
My friend’s manuscript keeps getting rejected (par for the course for all writers) and I’m afraid it’s wearing on her resolve. I’m sure the disappointment is huge and deflating. But I feel fiercely hopeful for her and want to remind her not to give up. This must be what it felt like for the Russian gymnast who worked so hard to get to Olympics and practically fell on her face during the end of her floor routine. So much hinged on a 1 minute routine. Her tears on the sideline let you know that she felt like an epic failure. But of course we know she’s not. You don’t make it into the Olympics if you’re an epic failure.
You don’t finish a manuscript and get an agent if you stink at what you do. Your determination and skill got you there in the first place. Timing is everything. You give it your best shot. You fall. You get up. You do it again. When you’re out of steam you need only look at how far you’ve come. You’re in the game.