blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Good writing or Olympic Gold Writing? How does a writer move from one to the other?
What’s the difference between a good ice skater and an Olympic gold ice skater? Where are the similarities between the discipline it takes to become an Olympian and what it takes to become an Olympic-quality writer?
Watching the world’s best athletes gather for the Olympics is always entertaining and inspiring. As the camera zeroed in on a petite women’s ice skating champion, I noticed the definition in the muscles of her shoulders. She’d been lifting weights. An Olympic-level skater needs upper body strength in addition to core and leg strength. Muscles don’t retain clear definition without upkeep. Strength training is part of the price a skater pays for reaching a higher level of performance. For writers, that might equate to persistence in learning our craft. Even the best grammarians among us continue to study grammar. Award-winning authors listen to podcasts, read books on plot and character development, and build storytelling muscles.
You know the story. Since the Olympic-bound kid was a toddler, he or she showed up at the rink (with bleary-eyed parents) in the wee hours of pre-dawn to practice. Some athletes of this quality spend four to six hours a day practicing. (No wonder my piano recitals were less than stellar.) They devoted themselves to honing their skills, showing up whether they felt like it or not, saying no to distractions even when it didn’t make them popular. That diligence gets noticed and rewarded. The same is true for those striving to become Olympic Gold writers.
Not settling for less than excellence.
Mastered the triple toe loop? Moving on to the quad. Perfected the spin? Make the revolutions quicker. Technically spot on? Now to work on elegance.
Choosing the right musical accompaniment for their routine.
We watch Olympic skaters and ice dancers and their carefully choreographed routines. Sports commentators add insights about lines and edges and costumes. And the music. Is it right for the skater(s)? Right for their style of skating, appropriate to engage that unique audience? It all matters. All the details matter. As they do for Olympic Gold writers.
Determining to press through nerves or fear.
World class athletes prepare their bodies, their routines, and their minds. They know nerves can paralyze, especially on an ultra-public stage like the Olympics. Nerves or fear can paralyze writers too. Those who press through their fears and uncertainties, who pop back up after falls or rejection, rise above the rest.
Understanding judges’ expectations.
Olympic athletes are well-versed in the requirements of their sport’s discipline. What will cause deductions? How do they perform well enough to earn top scores? What elements are mandatory and which are optional? Writers who understand judges’, publishers’, editors’, agents’, and readers’ expectations move from good to Olympic Gold.