Writers’ Connection


Get Your Writing Game On: How an Author is Like an Olympic Athlete (Updated for 2022 XXIV Beijing Games)

Olympic athletes are like the big name authors of the literary world. The same passion, training and dedication that brings athletes to the physical peak of their performance is exactly what makes authors so good at writing.

The XXIV Winter Olympic Games in Beijing went full force, with hours of coverage and recaps continually running on multiple media outlets. And what an intense and surprising showcase it was!! Individuals and teams fighting hard and eagerly racking up medal counts. The darlings of team USA this time around were again the seasoned Mikaela Shiffrin and Shaun White, and returning for their second Olympics, Colorado champions Red Gerard and Never Summer Industries sponsored Chris Corning.

Watching these Olympic Athletes battle it out makes me burst with pride. They sure don’t get to this level by chance. They are expected to train every single day, at the same time and place, for years, to perfect their skill. Consistency is the key to their success, and their dedication to their sport makes them win. They truly love what they do and it shows.

This got me thinking about how anyone looking to pursue a dream can have similar results if they make it a priority and create a schedule for success. “Practice makes perfect” is the old saying. Whether you desire to be a chef, a teacher, athlete or author, you can apply the same principles to the craft to succeed. Olympic athletes are like the big name authors of the literary world. That same passion, training and dedication that brings athletes to the physical peak of their performance is exactly what makes world-renowned authors like Stephen King, JK Rowling, Dan Brown, and George R. R. Martin so good at writing. Imagine having a just a fraction of their talent and work ethic and where that might take you?

Like everyone, the best athletes in the world fall sometimes. They aren’t always flawless, only when it matters. They train for a good portion of their lives to become the best in their sports and events. They put everything they have into it, including time and money, along with blood, sweat, and tears. They are quick, powerful, determined, razor-focused, and resilient. They want to win.

To be an author, you have your work cut out for you. The words aren’t going to write themselves! You have to train your brain to think like an athlete. Get it used to habits and processes and repetition that lead to an end goal of a book. The process of writing, if practiced and refined, will become a new habit. You may begin to look forward to writing each day. Don’t put off writing that book you dream about. Avoid writing in exhaustive chunks, only when you have time, in an effort to get it over with. Please don’t procrastinate and wait until a deadline looms to rush through the words, knowing this is not your best effort. Don’t reach the end of the draft, bleeding, battered, and disappointed. You’ll most likely never finish.
Most of us will never compete in the Olympics, but we can sure learn some lessons from these amazing and inspirational athletes. Some of these characteristics clearly define both Olympic athletes and authors in their journey to achieving the ultimate goal: winning a medal or writing a book:

  1. Preparation – they are well prepared and have a detailed and phased (training) plan to get from start to the finish line.
  2. Determination – they push forward through the obstacles until they are done and don’t let anything get in the way of the end goal.
  3. Student of their craft – they are constantly learning, practicing (writing), and studying (reading) material to be an expert in their field – and keeping a keen eye on the competition (genre and other similar authors).
  4. Accountability – they have a support system in place that keeps them accountable (agent, coach, family, peers) so they won’t give up or stray.
  5. Perfection – they strive to be great, not just good, and to stand out from the crowd in their space (sport, genre).
  6. Commitment – their commitment to their dream keeps them going, even on bad days when they may feel defeated and have no energy or focus.
  7. Consistency – they are consistent in their actions and thoughts and always know what to expect next and how to navigate a challenge.
  8. Open-minded and coachable – they know there is always room for improvement and they are not shy about changing up tactics or trying something new as a way to stay on top.
  9. Focus – they have the ability to set aside everything else and razor-focus for periods of time, avoiding all distractions (tunnel vision, closing a door, turning off devices).
  10. Fearless – they are fearless and think big picture towards achieving the ultimate goal – to be the best, to finish, to win Gold.

If you want to be a successful author, begin training your brain like a world-class Olympic athlete. The brain is a muscle, and while at first setting a schedule and sticking to it may be uncomfortable, eventually you will get used to a continual, repetitive effort. It takes just 30 days to form a new habit. Just don’t burn yourself out. Even an athlete who overdoes it may take days to recover an overworked muscle. Write in smaller, regular sessions, rather than in longer marathon ones.

You have to train to run a marathon. You start out with baby steps, adding in the foundational support tools of a balanced diet, adequate water, and rest. Writing is a way of feeding and refining the thinking process. Treat writing with the respect it deserves and you may surprise yourself with how good you really can be at it.

Article written by Anne M. Carroll

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