Writing is a Team Sport

olympics

As I write this, the Olympics are in full swing, and I don’t know about you, but I am glued to my television every night, cheering on Team USA.

I am blown away by the dedication of these athletes. As I watch them compete, I see similarities in their job and mine, in their passion and in my passion. And of course as a writer, I see an analogy in EVERYTHING. So here are my take-aways from the Olympics:

1. Identify your team.

Kariss' teamWhat strikes me about so many of these Olympic events is that they are solo endeavors, meaning the athlete competes alone and is scored individually, even though they are part of a larger team for his/her particular discipline and country. But regardless of the individual scoring, each athlete also has a support system, usually consisting of coaches, trainers, and family and friends. Writing so often feels like an isolated career. Unless I sit down and place my fingers on the keyboard, it doesn’t happen. A month before my first book, Shaken, released, I panicked. I needed help, but not with the writing. I have a great publisher, editor, and agent, but I needed a local team. In January, I invited a group of my friends to participate with me in the dreaming and execution. I call them my “Creative Brain Trust.” And, man, did they have ideas. They are the reason for all the buzz leading up to release day. They not only encouraged, but jumped in to help.

2. Have the courage to share your passion.

One thing I LOVE about watching these incredible athletes is the pure joy they feel in participating in and sharing their sport with the watching world. Writing is a vulnerable career. We splash our hearts and thoughts across bound pages and put it into the hands of those who can criticize. That is the beauty and the struggle of art. These athletes are no different. There is something beautiful about watching a snowboarder catapult in the air on a jump, stick the landing, and grin from ear-to-ear as they coast to a stop. What a rush! Move past the possibility of criticism and fear of what people think. Find the joy in writing, and be unafraid to share that with others.

3. Dedication and training pay off.

KLshaken

What is your Olympic moment? What are you training for? For a couple of years, I wondered if my training would pay off. I flew to out-of-state conferences, bought training books, took classes, spent money on professional editing, joined associations. It didn’t seem to lead anywhere. But my Olympic moment just came February 4 with the release of Shaken, book one in the Heart of a Warrior series. I look back and see all the training and dedication coming down to this one moment. And I’m not done yet. I’m gearing up for my next Olympic moment next winter with the release of Shadowed. In the meantime, back to training.

4. Be innovative and take risks.

I heard a snowboarder from Canada say that his sport is always changing. In order to succeed and stay on top, he has to be willing to change with it. But change in itself isn’t enough. He has to be willing to blaze the trail for new tricks, new techniques, and new skill. That’s what I love about writing. It’s fluid. Though the rules are specific, they allow for personal style. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of this field and make it your own. There is value in following the rules of the market, but there is also value in standing apart. Find the balance. I’m still learning what this looks like, but I relish the challenge.

5. Celebrate the victories.

Whether or not they win a medal, at the end of the day these athletes are Olympians, and so many of them celebrate that fact alone. I loved watching a first time cross-country skier celebrate eighth place because it was a personal best for her. She even talked about where she could be four years from now in the next winter Olympics.

At the end of the day, you are a writer. Celebrate the success and release of your work. Take a break and rest. Then get back on the horse and crank out something even better for your next Olympics. You have accomplished something great. Now, set your sights on something greater.

What lessons are you learning during the Olympics? What would you add to this list? Happy writing, and Go USA!

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Keep Doggedly at It – Writing That Is!

 

 Isaac Asimov at work                                         

                 

Samuel Johnson, the 18th Century Englishman who penned the first dictionary of the English language said this of writing.

“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”

There is a lot of wisdom in this statement. I believe the main thing which separates successful writers from would-be is that most people who think they can write don’t have the stomach for it. Just like any other enterprise of worth it involves hours and hours of hard work.

On the radio this week I heard the story of two 12-year-olds, swimming hopefuls both of them outstanding athletes. The young boy said it was his dream to swim for Great Britain in the Olympics in 2012. The young girl said she had the same dream. The boy talked a lot about winning a gold medal. The girl got stuck into training. Five years later the young girl, now 17, has been picked for the GB team and she has a good chance of getting a medal. What about the boy? Well he’s still talking about winning, but he hasn’t even got a spectator ticket for the event. He dropped out of training long ago.

Here’s a quote from the Novelist Doris Lessing, “I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.”

“The only difference between a writer and someone who wants to be a writer is discipline” Ayelet Waldman.

Bah humbug! Discipline, the bane of all who want to be a success overnight, can’t I just have it all without the discipline, the work, and the misery?

We all know the answer to that question. Lee Iaccoca said “The discipline of writing something down is the first step towards making it happen.”

Ernest Hemingway used to get up at dawn and write until lunch time then enjoyed his afternoons not writing. CS Lewis had a daily schedule which he kept to and that meant writing 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon. Jean Plaidy wrote 5000 words before lunch. Graham Greene did only 500 words a day, but look at the output. Isaac Asimov awoke each morning at 6 AM and worked well into the night, sometimes churning out entire books in a matter of days, amazing, but not for me.

Whatever your plan is just keep to it, doggedly, and then one day you’ll walk past a book shop with your own creation smiling proudly in the window.

I love this from Harlan Ellison “People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing. That you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones about and come down in the morning with a story. But it isn’t like that. You sit in the back with a typewriter and you work. That’s all there is to it.”

I leave you with this quote from your own John Adams, which is good advice to any writer.

“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.”

How do you maintain discipline in your writing life?