Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Learning from the Olympics

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I admit it . . . I was addicted to watching the Olympics. They made me want to swim more, run further, and practice my back flips (okay, maybe not back flips but I can still do a cartwheel which only children find fascinating) but now that the Olympics are over I'm left feeling a little empty. What I discovered is that it's not all about the sports or who won medals and who didn't.  I miss learning about the athletes and what competing at such a high level means. It got me wondering how what I learned could be applied to a writing career like my own.

Never give up! So many of these athletes spoke about how they left the sport and returned or were on the brink of quitting but didn't. Like athletes, so many writers talk about experiencing success after intense feelings of failure. Don't give in to those feelings. Try, try again!

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Know when it's time to embark on a new journey. Maybe a particular manuscript you've been spending time on just isn't working out. Consider giving it a rest or putting it away to work on something new. Not everything we write is meant to be published. It's not quitting, it's starting something new.

Image result for gymnastic vaultLearn what your strengths are and focus on them. Not everyone is good on the uneven bars.The only way to find what your strengths are is by trying different things. Be adventurous and by that I don't mean take up vaulting if the uneven bars make you nervous. But taking a class in a different genre can be fun. You might discover you're better at writing for television instead of writing books. For me, that wasn't the case, but I gave it shot. I was writing fiction long before I started writing nonfiction. Imagine if I never tried writing nonfiction!

Get over major mistakes. I feel awful that one false start could disqualify you from a race in the Olympics. A false start in writing could be submitting a manuscript to an editor or agent before it's really ready. Don't be too anxious and jump off the starting block too soon. In many instances, you only get one shot to have your manuscript read. Editors and agents prefer you wait until you're ready to enter the big race. If they like your manuscript they're not going to care they don't remember your name from the SCBWI conference. 

Not everyone wins an Olympic medal the first time around. Many athletes went home without even making it to medal contention. And I don't remember which athlete said it but someone said they were going to ask themselves everyday what they could do today to get closer to their goal of winning a medal. I try to apply this strategy to my writing. Each day I ask myself this question and at the end of the day I ask myself if I've done at least one thing to get me closer to my writing goals. It helps me focus and stay on task.Image result for mistakes

Practice honesty with yourself and others. Editors and agents need to know they can trust you before they will want to work with you. It takes a long time to publish a book so they're going to be working with you throughout the process and even after publication. The publishing world is not so big that editors and agents don't talk to each other. Don't have any regrets that might cause others not to want to work with you. You want to be respected in the industry. 
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I witnessed the passion the athletes have for their sports and the time and dedication it takes to be great at something. I saw obstacles overcome, records set, and Olympians who will never compete again. I'm inspired by all of them. What's next? Sharpen those ice skates and get ready for more inspiration in 2018!

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