Writers’ Connection


Get Your Writing Game On: How an Author is Like an Olympic Athlete (2018 South Korea 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.

This week started out busier than ever. There is a unique and undeniable excitement in the air. The XXXIII Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, are in full force, with hours of coverage and recaps continually running on multiple media outlets. Teams are eagerly racking up the medal counts. The darlings of team USA this time around are the seasoned Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and Shaun White, mixed in with a few new fearless faces in Red Gerard and Bradie Tennell.

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 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, too. 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 live 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 leads 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 (training) plan to get from start to the finish line.
  2. Determination – they push forward through the obstacles until they are done.
  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).
  4. Accountability – they have a support system in place that keeps them accountable (agent, coach, family) so they won’t give up.
  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.
  7. Consistency – they are consistent in their actions and thoughts and always know what to expect next.
  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 a new 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.
  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 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. Just don’t burn yourself out. Even an athlete who overdoes it may take days to recover. 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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