On your mark....

Word Count: 398                                  Reading time: 1-2 mins.

Australian swimmer Leisel Jones has collected a sack of Olympic medals since she first competed in Sydney in 2000: 3 gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze. Not satisfied with that outstanding record the Herald Sun newspaper attacked her this year because of her body size. How much does a person have to give before it’s enough?

When I think of Olympic athletes, I think of how young they have to start, how early someone has to recognize their talent and start grooming them for a prize way down the road. I envision all the dark mornings when parents get up and chauffeur them (if they are lucky enough to have a car) to far away venues. I imagine all the holidays that focus on sporting competitions. The costs must be off the scale and family sacrifices immeasurable, like those of Chinese diver Wu Minxia who rarely speaks to her parents so her training won’t be disrupted by potentially disturbing news.

All that perseverance for a few weeks in the sun, once every four years if an athlete is lucky enough to qualify for more than one Olympic meet. And if they are off their form at any point in the qualifying rounds, they may never even hear the starting pistol; they’re finished before they’re out of the gate. Injuries may end their careers permanently.

So if you train and train and never make it beyond the city championships, has all that effort gone to waste? Not really; the habits of hard work, endurance, and courage last a lifetime.

Writing also demands hard work, endurance and courage. Katherine Anne Porter called courage the “first essential for a writer”; it’s essential if we’re ever going to be true to our stories and our characters. Getting a novel to reader-ready status demands both hard work and perseverance. In the end, if we are lucky, we might achieve moderate success, maybe the equivalent of a win at a city championship: a publication and good sales. And, unlike Leisel Jones, even the greatest among us will never have their pictures splashed the front page of the paper, questioning whether they are fit enough to compete in the frantic world of publishing.

What type of writing athlete are you? When you’ve had a bad day writing do you put your losses behind you and jump back into the pool, ready for the next heat?

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