During the last two weeks most Americans have been fixed to their TV sets and fully absorbed in the Olympic Games. If you asked them to use just one word to describe the Games many would use the same word; inspiring.
We all have been inspired by the women’s gymnastics team as they won gold. Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Weiber and Kyla Ross flipping, flying and flexing their bodies seemingly beyond the limits of human potential. Then there is Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter who happens to have no legs. He is a determined double amputee that has made it to the semifinals of the 400 meters running on prosthetic limbs. Affectionately known as the “Blade Runner,” he slips on his legs as easily as able-bodied runners slip on their shoes.
All of the athletes have much in common: an Olympic dream, a grueling training schedule, a life of sacrifice, a tolerance for pain, an acceptance of injury, an unwavering commitment to their goals, a resiliency to setbacks, an enviable work ethic and a story that must be told. For some, that story includes victory or redemption, for others, bitter loss, grave disappointment or disillusionment.
As I listened to their stories the last two weeks and witnessed their indomitable spirit to pursue their dreams, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to the writing life. The writing life is also often beset with disappointment and disillusionment, long periods of waiting, self-doubt, starting over, and pressing on—alone. Perhaps not on the grand scale of an Olympic athlete, but soul-searching setbacks are part of the game for writers too.
As a writer and a former gymnast myself, I was motivated this week most by the Olympic spirit to press on despite hardship, injury or former defeat. So many athletes simply would not settle for the silver medal in past Olympic Games. Their quest for gold was relentless.
In the writing life, I often hear writers explain their lack of productivity by saying, “I just don’t feel inspired to write today.” After watching these Games can you imagine an Olympic athlete saying, “I’m not going to train because I don’t feel inspired today?” The athlete understands there is no reward without regiment. No redemption without perseverance. No elation without effort. And no gold without goals.
Isn’t it the same for us as writers? Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. The Olympic athlete lives by an unspoken creed, one we should adopt for the writing life: “I would rather be an inspiration to others than wait for someone to inspire me.” They are driven internally.
I have enjoyed these Games immensely. And yes, I have been inspired by the athletes’ work ethic, tenacity, talent, performance under pressure and their intense fixation on the ultimate goal; Olympic gold.
As the games come to a close, I ask myself how devoted am I to my writing goals? And while I understand that there is no Olympic gold medal for writing, should I approach this craft as if there were?
The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.
Blog entries are posted on Thursday.
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