The Olympics are about dreams, hard work, and changing the records of human history—what’s not to love? But as we talk about competition and how it fuels our writing at The Debutante Ball this week, I find myself a bit on the outskirts of this discussion. Let’s use a track and field analogy—a sport I love and coached for years. (I know, I know, that’s the Summer Games, but let’s go with it.)
When I crossed that finish line after running the mile, I never cared where I finished in the pack. It was far more important to me that I break my own best record. I always raced against myself, pushed myself to FINISH with all the grit, gut, and gumption I could muster. Sometimes this meant vomiting when I crossed the finish line, or at the very least, having my legs collapse beneath me. This translated into my coaching style as well—FOCUS ON YOURSELF, I used to tell my athletes. If you’re busy going as hard as you can, you will beat others and sometimes you won’t, but you will ALWAYS be proud of the effort you put forward that day.
Ultimately, I’m not very competitive. I don’t like contests unless I’m judging. I don’t compare myself to all of my writer friends and where they are. Sure, at times I marvel at someone else’s amazing book contract or starred review, or I wish my name was on that NYT bestseller list—and I hope to be there one day—but I don’t see my writing career as a “me versus them”. The only person I compete with is MYSELF and in that competition, I am FIERCE and UNYIELDING. Because the constant comparison to others is futile and exhausting, and at the end of the day, it very rarely makes you feel good about yourself.
So the writing Olympics? Yeah, I would suck at that big time. I’m writing because I love it and making it about competition with others drains all the joy out of it.
Are the aspects of your life where you are competitive and are where you aren’t?
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