Writing Is My Toughest Apparatus

I’ve trained for years. I left home at the tender age of 22 to study intensively with masters of the craft. I’ve fallen down, been defeated, whined, cried, celebrated, and worked. And yet, writing is still my toughest apparatus.

I’ve watched a lot of gymnastics over the past week, and I’m not even caught up all the way on the DVR. But every time I watch, I can feel myself getting gymnastics face afterwards. It’s “I’m going to own this” face. It’s the face the girls put on every time they stare down the vault, every time they look out over that springy floor, right before they jump in and give it their best shot.

I’ve noticed some parallels between writing and gymnastics (you know, beyond gymnastics face). I’ve noticed that the gymnasts are better off if they hide under a towel or their jacket. If they watch their competitors, it can rattle their own performance, either shaking their confidence or giving them a false sense of security.

Likewise, in writing, I sometimes feel like we have to put our heads down and shut out the rest of the world – Facebook, Twitter, email, the news, our jobs, etc. I watched Lady Gaga do an interview with Oprah recently, and she said that after her interview with Oprah, she intended to go dark for awhile, to “shut out the noise.” I’ve been feeling that more and more, the need to shield myself from the rest of the world a bit so I can write, so I can maintain the dream I’m writing.

In gymnastics, there’s a clear winner and loser. It’s based on the scoring done by a panel of judges; sometimes they’re harsh, sometimes they’re kind, but the gymnasts have no other choice but to go out on the floor, do their best, and then hope for scores that push them forward.

How much does that sound like sending work to editors? Sometimes they’re in a good mood, sometimes yours is the first story they read after they get rear-ended or spill hot coffee on themselves or get their own rejection notice. All we can do is keep writing, keep sitting down, typing out words, and sending them in, hoping for kind judges who are in a good mood.

And the thing is, more often than not, gymnasts get passed over. Rejection happens. But as writers, we have to maintain hope that if we work hard enough, long enough, we can get past rejection and someone will sit up and listen to us. Someone will notice what we’re doing and like it. And when that happens, we need to celebrate. A lot. Relish that good moment. Soak up every ounce of satisfaction that comes with recognition and a job well done because I believe that before too long, all writers, all performers, all athletes come back to that home base of feeling inadequate, ill-prepared, and out of practice. So we should celebrate our successes, learn from our failures and rejections, and keep going. Keep writing. Keep getting gymnastics face. Stick our landings into our fictional worlds. (How long can I keep this extended metaphor going? Let’s not wait to find out.)

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