I have a real passion for world-class sports, whether it be the Olympics (and I was fortunate enough to attend the Winter Olympics earlier this year), World Cup soccer (or football, depending where you live!), and, most recently, US Open tennis.
There is something spectacular about watching people, athletes, who are the best in the world at what they do. And it’s fascinating to see the different approaches, the different strategies these talented men and women use.
But they all have something in common, something that inspires me…dedication.
An athlete doesn’t show up on game day and hope for the best. They train, they practice, they learn, they change their approach. When things are going wrong, they still have to hang in there, even if the world is watching.
It’s easy to say that someone has natural talent, as if that explains success. Tennis legend Andre Agassi’s father had him hit 2,500 tennis balls per day, equaling nearly one million balls per year. His father believed that if Agassi hit a million balls a year, he’d be unbeatable.
Did Agassi have talent? No doubt. But what lessons did he learn from hitting one million tennis balls a year?
All of us can learn from this.
We, too, have to train, practice, learn, change our approach, hang in there when the going gets tough.
It took me over ten years to sell my first book. There were moments of horrendous disappointment. There were small victories, like awards for contest wins. But the biggest factor in finally publishing was in showing up every day, day in, day out, and doing the work necessary to succeed.
As writers, we can train by reading other great books, by reading how-to books, by doing the exercises recommended by other writers. We can practice and stay sharp by showing up at the computer, even when we don’t want to, when we’re tired, “don’t feel like it,” even when it’s more enticing to watch television or “chill.”
It we want to stay relevant, we have to be responsive to the marketplace and write the kinds of stories that readers want. It may be necessary, published or not, to change our approach, write better, faster, stronger, deeper, with humor, with emotion. What worked in yesterday’s competition may not work in today’s.
Does raw talent help? You bet it does. I’ve seen authors with amazing talent sell the first thing they write.
But I also mentioned that part about when the whole world is watching. If you get a bad review as a writer, you can’t hide. It’s out there on the Internet for the whole world to see, forever.
No matter how much talent we have, no matter how much success we enjoy, we still need strategies to regroup and move forward. Some tennis players will put a towel on their head to block out the crowd and regain focus. For my writing, I use a “whining buddy.” When I have bad news, I’m allowed to whine for twenty-four hours, but only to my buddy. I don’t put it on Twitter or a blog. I then go back to what works…writing, rewriting, revising, learning from the experience, practicing my craft, changing my approach.
I appreciate watching the best of the best. I admire their dedication to do what it take, living it, breathing it, thinking about it, dreaming about it. And I am inspired.
Time to write…