Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Why writing is not an Olympic event
JAN BROGAN - As I was watching the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics last weekend with my family, taking in the history, tradition, pageantry and creativity of the spectacular event, I looked into the optimistic faces of all the world's top athletes and I had one overriding thought:
Thank God writing isn't an Olympic event.
Can you imagine what goes into being an athlete? You spend your young life sacrificing the carefree days of youth to devote yourself to training for your sport. You dedicate four years to officially gear up for the Olympics, eat just the right food, do just the right exercises, fight with your coach, struggle through pre qualifying and qualifying events, agonize over the competition, all for that one day.
And that one day arrives. And maybe, just maybe you were so nervous you didn't get a good night's sleep. Or you ate too much pasta or not enough vegetables the night before. You've got a cramp in your hamstring or you slept wrong on your neck. Maybe you wake up with your seasonal allergies in full bloom.
All that work, all that dedication, and you have what - a few minutes in swimming, a few more in running or a gymnastics routine? And in those minutes, it all has fall together. It all has to be perfect.
What happens if you are a half a second slower today? Your balance is just a tiny bit off. The stiff neck affects the flexibility of your spine and you just don't rotate the right way. What if you are the Men's Gymastics team, taking all the first place finishes in the qualifications only to end up FIFTH?
Whereas, if you were just writing a novel about the Olympics, you could wake up completely hungover. You might forget the names of the American archers. You could mistake silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel's home state, change her name and make her from Massachusetts. You could easily mispell the name of the Malaysian shooter who competed while pregnant. (Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi). and if you decide to fictionalize and make a better story, she can even win!
You write a really crummy first draft, and then later, you can write a really crummy second draft. You can decide you got an entire subplot wrong and take it out of your book. Your editor can tell you that you would write it much better in first person and you can redo the entire thing. As long as you get it right, the fifth, sixth or maybe seventh time you go through it, you can still take home the gold.
I should be losing myself in the drama of the competition, but no. What I'm thinking when I'm watching the Olympics is that I am so GLAD I put my heart and soul into a field where it's all about the do-overs. I am so glad I am not competing in an event that cannot be rewritten.
When you watch are you wishing you were one of the athletes and this was your moment? Do you take inspiration from their achievements? Or are some really weird thoughts running through your mind?