What Writers Can Learn From Olympic Athletes
Watching a high schooler swim her way to a gold medal tonight in swimming made me think about goals. Our goals for greatness and whether they are reasonable or not. Watching people medal in the Olympics makes it look almost easy. Almost. We kind of know the athletes have dedicated maybe the last four plus years to training; hard, awful pain-inducing training. We might realize they have to watch what they eat, meaning no pancakes for a month at least. And the mental toughness has to play into it. Envisioning winning must be tough while taking breaths and swimming.
We haven’t witnessed all these athletes have willingly given up to pursue greatness. Early mornings spent training, starting from an early age, because discipline is mastered before anything else can be learned. These Olympians have a desire to focus on one thing: their sport and how they will win at it. It takes hours upon hours a day of relentless practice. Diet is code for what they place in their mouths and thus, bodies for fuel. And they never give up. Pain is a way of life. Winners feel tired, yet they strive forward, pushing at Olympic and world records. Olympic athletes are focused on winning. Just being at the Olympics for most is enough, but for the medalists it is so much more. They never stop believing their dream.
What can writers take from away from these amazing and inspiring athletes? What can we learn from the contenders who fade out of medaling? A lot, actually. We must be discilpined. We must write every day. Just put something down on paper, and stop thinking about the perfect word. Writing is often the art of getting into the flow, and it often has nothing to do with feeling inspired. If it were up to bouts of inspiration, we would not have Thoreau, Austen, Tolkien, Ruth Ware (my favorite right now), along with Tolstoy, and more. All the greats wrote when they felt uninspired. They just wrote words in a thoughtful, logical procession on paper or computer.
We must fill our minds with a good diet of excellent authors. Those who write novels, short stories, essays, and more. Reading literary works of art primes us by enlarging our vocabularies, our world and how to craft an excellent article, novel or poem. Whatever it is you are into writing, you can always learn more, and this serves as mental training. You can’t write exactly like your favorite authors, but you can learn from them. Pace, phrasing, stylization, and genre are forms we need to see over and over. It sharpens us.
Most of us will never pen a bestseller, but we can get a body of work published. We can be participants at the least. We writers can show up day after day, honing our craft, mercilessly editing our wordy works, and then maybe one of us will write the next classic. Oh, we might not know it during our lifetime; but someone reading this might break through and connect with their audience. We’ll never know unless we train as Olympian writers. We can only improve, so don’t be disheartened or discouraged; which is the opposite of encouarged. Be encouraged, and cheer on others to their potential, too. We writers should cheer each other on toward greatness.
And write. Today and all days.