Friday, February 19, 2010

What Writers Can Learn From The Olympics

I've caught Olympic Fever ... I find myself watching speed skating and actually being able to converse with people about how the Korean team knocked each other out allowing Apollo to take second and the young American J.R. to take third.  I've watched people ski and the shoot rifles, and watched the snowboarders do incredible tricks in the air.

And after listening to the stories of how much the athletes struggled to attain perfection, I couldn't help comparing some of that struggle to writing.

I love the snowboarders' motto, GO BIG or GO HOME -- and think that's really how as a writer you have to attack your writing.  You can't hold back, play it safe, write with an eye to what other people are going to think about what you have to say.  You can't let the constrictions of the market make you second guess your plot or just how over the line one of your characters might be.  You can't let yourself write scenes similar to ones you've written before because it's faster and you know how to do that.

You have to push your plot, have to hone your craft, work harder, aim higher with every book that you write.  I'm writing my 28th book at the moment and sometimes I think I've done everything and then ... I realize I haven't.  Because there are millions of stories to tell and various ways to tell them, and I want every book to be better, richer, deeper ... to have more of everything.  Because as writers, just like Olympians we want to pull out the best performance every time and especially when it counts.

When I think of how hard some of those athletes have worked to get where they are ... it makes me realize that there's no excuse for writer's block ... writing may not be a sport, but it's still a struggle to create something out of nothing.  And despite the bad breaks writers can encounter in a writing career, poor covers, bad book distribution, snarky anonymous reviews, those breaks are nothing like skiing down the face of a mountain, flying head first into the snow at 80 miles per hour and then getting up and doing it again, because it's what you love, it's what you do.

So I'm heading back to work ... inspired ... as I hope you are, too, by the Olympics and how they can bring out the best of us.  What's your favorite Olympic Sport - any athlete that has inspired you?


  1. Hi Barbara - I'm hooked on the Olympics too. I love the skiing and the snowboarding but then I grew up in Lake Tahoe. I think the athletes do inspire me to work harder, try to be the best instead of just doing a half-assed job sometimes.

    By the way, I can't wait for your new books. I already preordered copies at my B&N.

  2. Great blog, Barbara! Love the connections you made between writing and the Olympics. BTW Men's Skating Gold Medalist Evan L. is from my hometown of Naperville IL! The hard work he puts into his skating is another thing that applies to writing. Cathie

  3. Cathie - That's so cool -- I've definitely been inspired to write more, work harder, when I think of how much the athletes sacrifice!