Thursday, February 25, 2010

You Gotta Have Heart

By Beth Terrell

The topic du jour at work of late has been the Olympics. We’ve seen story after story about these athletes—the greatest in the world—and the sacrifices they’ve made to get to the winter games in Vancouver. We saw a pairs skater go onto the ice with torn tendons in one ankle; she skated beautifully, and no one watching could have guessed she was in terrible pain. We saw a speed skater with metal pins holding the bones of his forearm together. We saw a downhill skier who, after a debilitating accident, competed in her sport of choice three weeks after doctors told her it would be months before she could even begin to walk. We saw a skater perform on the day of her mother’s death, and we saw the team from Georgia carry on after the tragic loss of one of their teammates on the first day of the games. No doubt about it, these young men and women have a special kind of courage—the kind we often call Heart.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have what it takes to hobble out into the snow with a sprained ankle, put on a pair of skis, and pitch myself down the side of a mountain. Thankfully, as a writer, I don’t have to. But I think writing requires its own brand of Heart.

Like Olympic athletes, writers spend thousands of hours honing our craft. I’ve read that you have to write a million words before you become a master of your art. That means showing up at the computer (or paper, or typewriter), whether we feel like it or not, whether inspiration strikes or not. Day after day, word after word, one sentence after another.

Like Olympic athletes, writers “put themselves out there.” There’s no place to hide when you’re the only one on the ice, or the only one on the ski slope, and there’s no place to hide when your name is on a book that can be picked up and read by potentially thousands of readers. Olympic athletes have to deal with judges and timers. Writers have to deal with critics and reviewers. Olympic athletes give a hundred percent to every competition. Writers give a hundred percent to every book. We put our hearts on the page for the world to see.

Olympic athletes never give up. In the face of injuries, poor performances, broken equipment, and discouraging words from others, they persevere. Writers persevere as well. Today, I read an article about a writer with an impressive number of published short stories—and 11,000 rejections. Can you imagine how hard it must be to keep writing and submitting after 11,000 rejections? Now, that takes Heart.

No, I don’t have what it takes to be an Olympic athlete, but I hope I have—or at least can cultivate—that special kind of courage it takes to be a writer. I hope I have a writer’s Heart.


Mark W. Danielson said...

Good analogy, Beth. We're not Olympians, but we share their spirit. "Never give up, never surrender."

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree. Writers need that kind of spirit that motivates us to continue no matter how many rejections we receive or how much angst results from newbie copy editing.

Beth Terrell said...

Mark, that "never surrender" quote is from one of my favorite movies, GALAXY QUEST. Of course, it's been used in many other movies too, but GALAXY QUEST is the one that sticks in my mind.