Book Trailer for Pilikia

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Olympics and Writing

The Olympics have begun. It is that grand time every four years when we put aside our mundane concerns to watch men and women accomplish incredible feats of skill, athleticism and determination. There will be lots of gold, silver and bronze given out, some world records set. Many tears will be shed in joy, but many more shed in disappointment.

The real story of the games is not the medals or the records, but the motivation that drives these people to go swifter, higher, stronger. Watching swimmer Dara Torres anchor her team to a silver medal, I couldn’t help wonder what drove her through all those years of four a. m. practice sessions, what got her through the injuries, the recoveries and the disappointments. Practices don’t always go smoothly, meets don’t always end in a win. It is probably safe to say that most athletes suffer more disappointments than successes. What keeps them going? They keep their eyes on the prize. Most of the athletes, who entered the stadium on Friday, the best in their country, will lose, but all of them have their eyes on the gold.

The message of the Olympic games is that we are no different than Olympic athletes. Okay, most of us shooting baskets in the driveway have no hope of becoming Yao Ming. Genetics has something to do with athletic prowess in some sports, but genetics aside, the two requirements for success are practice and keeping your eyes on the prize.

(Get ready. Here comes the obligatory comparison. The clichéd Olympic metaphor.)

Writing is the same. Success as a writer is all a matter of practice and motivation. The only genes required to write are those that underlie linguistic ability. What sets successful writers apart from the rest is practice: reading and writing every day, hours per day, and keeping an eye on the prize. Writers, like athletes, suffer more disappointments than successes. Most books fail. Most aspiring writers fail. Success is not something that comes overnight, but is bought with long hours of effort and the shedding of many tears by writers who refused to give up.

What’s your prize? Is it a bestseller? A Pulitzer or National Book Award? An acceptance letter? Is it the admiration of your family and friends? Decide on the prize you want. Don’t set your sights low, but choose one that will carry you through the disappointments, the rejections, the days when none of you words come out right. Imagine yourself with the prize and don’t give up on it.

Dara Torres saw herself on the medal stand and look where it got her.