That title pretty much sums up a lot of the human qualities that draw us to each other. It’s funny how anyone who doesn’t appear ‘human enough’ is often seen as cold, indifferent, arrogant or ignorant. Either this extreme sense of isolation or even the opposite when some is elaborately expressive seems to cause negative reactions that fascinate me.
With elite sports people seems to come an in built belief that carries an amount of arrogance. I would guess it’s essential to believe they are better in order to mentally drive them to become a champion. A fire and an intensity that lights up their eyes, makes them stutter, shake, doubt but ultimately drives them to conquer. When I watch a sportsperson, I am always fascinated by their eyes. The highly successful ones seem to possess a steely passion in their eyes that sets them apart.
In a sense, I guess it’s a stubborness that’s essential for anyone who succeeds but it doesn’t seem to come without a massive cost. To be so focused, so intense, takes you away from day-to-day life. You live in a seperate world and you dwell in a visualised dream of the goal you are aiming for. Those around you have to make do with fitting around it. They can only wave on from the stands and offer moral support, or perhaps, a verbal punching bag. Still, the one competing is the only one who can win or lose. A pursuit to reach the pinnacle can only be completed by one set of footsteps.
If you’d wondering why I’m babbling on about this, today I was reminded about something through sport that I wanted to share. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the victor (who is wonderful too,) that caught my eye but the runner-up. It was a change of look in his eyes that warmed my heart and made me smile. So often a dream that big can be all consuming and make the dreamer single-minded to the deficit of those they love. This runner-up was livid that he had lost but was no longer insular. The words he spoke showed a consciousness for those who mattered, a realisation that it had been a job well done regardless of the results. That’s an easier thing to do when you win but not so hard when your dream has been stingingly close.
That to me felt like the spirit of someone who has begun to know who they are, what they want and to accept that to get where they wish to be, they will have to be imperfect. To achieve their dream they have to allow themselves to be human.
I understood the look in his eyes. I knew what it meant, daring to lay his heart out there. When you give everything to a project as a writer and leave your sweat, spit and tears on the pages, you feel like you’ve run a race. In fact let’s add a couple more in, you’ve run the marathon, played extra-time (and penalties,) gone through a gruelling five-setter (even the ladies!) hurled your best caber (kilts at the ready,) and gone to the judges for points. (phew!)
It can be easy at this point to give in to a million expert opinions on what you should and shouldn’t do. It can be easy to tire when everything becomes an uphill struggle, when the words don’t come or when the story feels like it’s lost the plot.
(I couldn’t resist…)
How many writers get a rejection and scrap their entire book? How many come back from festivals and editorial sessions and never want to write again? Failing, or not reaching the height that you are aiming for hurts. You sit there lost, disgruntled and forlorn.
Like in sport, you can easily get distracted at this point. There is that tendancy to look at those up in the elite echaleons. The guys who have a whole entourage and a publicist to make them look good. Newspapers want to follow them and give them awards, (and slam them occasionally,) they have sponsors who want their name on the shirt, the freebies, the stunning review on the cover. Their book gets the five-star treatment with reviewers, film-makers, and a big display in a national bookchain. A life in literary lights with all the joys (and incredible pressures,) that entails.
On the flip side, that lost author (and others who are beginning or working their way up) seem to have to fight for everything. They aren’t experts because they aren’t a name, they aren’t worth sponsoring because no one knows who they are. How can they? That author probably needs a publicist a lot more than the five-star author at the top. They need someone to lend them a hand but they don’t feel that they’ll get it unless they catch the eye of someone influential.
The dream seems like such a long way away.
It’s not very glamorous but that’s when a writer has to keep the hard work going. That’s when they have to decide if they believe and desire it enough to keep striving, to be ready when that opportunity finally gives them a shot at the elite.
Those around them at this point, if they are blessed, cheer them on, listen and help them in anyway possible. (Generally this involves chocolate, cake, or both.) If they are even luckier, they have a great coach/mentor/team who helps them to work on the areas that need improving.
Those times, I believe, are what make a difference. They teach you who you are, what you want, and how much you believe in something, how hard you will work to get it. Being turned away and told you’re too young/old/(insert irritating excuse here) isn’t an awful lot of fun but like the runner-up today proves, this happens at all levels. People will always have a cool-factor on those they champion but even the most popular writer/athlete/professional has those who think that they can do better.
The difference on any level is what you believe.
Are you someone who focuses on your own game? Are you so busy worrying whether the crowd will love you, the coach will pick you or if you are playing like everyone thinks you should, that you’ve been distracted from the entire point of it.
That simple point and the emotion that shone in the runner-up’s eyes today… joy.
Do you love it? Do you love it to that extreme? Does writing a chapter make you feel like you’re doing something special? Do you enjoy seeing a passage when you’ve nailed what you wanted to say? Do you celebrate being able to express yourself in that way? Do you get a buzz just putting words on a page?
If so, does it really matter if a million people read your book or just your support box. Would you read your own book? Is it how you want to write?
Whether you are a five-star legendary master or the new kid at grass-roots level, the love of what you do, I hope, is still the same.
That way when you do step out into the arena for your chance to shine, you step out as who you truly are, give it everything you’ve got and whether you win or lose, you make yourself and those who are cheering you on proud.