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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Writers Can Learn From Olympians

During the Summer Olympics (God, I can’t believe I’ve been blogging that long), I wrote a blog comparing my writing style to water polo. It’s oddly, to this day, one of my most read blogs ever, so I’m taking it that I have a lot of Olympic fans out there. And since I’m obsessed with the Games, have watched every minute, and I tear up every time I see a montage about an athlete’s search for “redemption,” I’ve decided to expand upon the topic.

Let’s face it, we’ve got some hardcore sob stories here. The Canadian skier racing in honor of his disabled brother. The American snowboarder famous for a hotdog move gone bad who came seeking respect. The 30-plus-year-old Chinese figure skaters with a Romeo & Juliet love story. Apolo speed skating rather than dancing (wait, he’s not just that guy who tangoed with Julianne Hough?). The Russian male figure skater hoping to squash his “enemies” like an evil secret agent.

So in honor of these athletes (who remind me of USA Network’s “Characters Welcome!”), I’ve decided to extrapolate what we as writers can learn from their personal histories.



Alexandre Bilodeau
If that older brother of his can defy the odds and walk long after people insist it’s impossible, then we can all get the heck out of bed and write 3,000 words per day. Writers have a gift not that dissimilar to athletes. Only we don’t run laps and drink wheat juice to train, we sit ourselves in a chair, alone, with no coach, and force ourselves to pound out those words. It’s hard work and athletes do it for years, every day, before anyone acknowledges their efforts. Sound familiar?



Lindsey Jacobellis
Just because you think you’ve earned respect, and just because you try as hard as you possibly can, you don’t always get what you think you deserve. Hers would have been the ultimate story of redemption, she could have shown the world how much she’d grown these past four years, but still she fell short. Sometimes, you don’t always get what you want when you want it. So anyone out there querying agents, or sitting on submission, think of Lindsey and then watch that Dan Jansen Visa commercial. Because if you work hard enough and don’t give up, your time will come, you just can’t control when.



Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo
Sometimes it’s nice to have someone you love beside you when you fight for your dreams. Whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a parent, or a sibling, having someone tell you repeatedly not to give up can make all the difference.



Apolo Anton Ohno
Even when you’re in fourth place, getting shoved and elbowed farther back, watching person after person pass you by as they soar closer to the goal you’re trying to achieve, sometimes the unforeseen happens. There’s a little bit of luck involved everything, whether it’s winning a short track race or getting a book deal. But you have to be there prepared, well trained, and ready to take advantage of that luck when it comes your way.



Evgeni Plushenko
If you guys do all of the above and do reach the pinnacle of your career, sometimes people just aren’t going to like you. It could be an Olympic competitor or an Amazon reviewer. So you can either take those comments in stride and appreciate that they come with the success you’ve worked so hard for, or you can make a video montage that makes you seem like an evil Bond Villain bent on destroying your “enemies” with a death ray. Either works.


POP CULTURE RANT: Starbucks
Okay mega coffee house, I give you props for finally creating a system to give frequent visitors free Internet access (if you don’t yet have their loyalty card, get it). But for the love of God, when did you start playing a mind-numbing mix of Easy Listening and Golden Oldies? Maybe it’s the switch from the city location to the ‘burbs, or maybe you’re going through an awkward phase, but I can’t tell you how hard it is to work when a loud, unbearably annoying version of the “When Saints Come Marching In” is blaring in a speaker above your head.

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