Froma Bird's Eye View

Commentary by Raven West

The Olympics and the Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

Watching the previews of the 2012 Summer Olympics made me realize how very much alone we, as writers are in own field of dreams. Each athlete has personal stories to tell about coaches, teammates, family, friends and sometimes entire towns cheering them on.

When they had doubts, when they fell on the ice, or landed in a pile of snow, numerous supporters were ready at a moments notice to help them back on their feet. And when they were finally in the arena, thousands of spectators watched, cheered and applauded their every achievement as well as felt their anguish when they didn’t quite make it to the finish line.

Yet, in our own “Wide Wide World of Writing”, the only “applause” we hear is from our fingers hitting the keyboard. Our biggest motivator is the blinking cursor on a blank screen “screaming” at us to KEEP GOING. Writing is a passion unlike any other. It comes from deep within, and has few rewards on the other side. The road is rifted with obstacles, and laden with the hazzards of rejection. Most of our friends and family members can’t possibly understand that our burning desire to create the “perfect” sentence is just as strong as any skater’s quest to nail the “perfect” triple axle. Yet, we press on. Alone.

We watch an athlete practice for the great event and can feel their struggle. We see the “thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” as the camera zooms in on their faces at the end of a competition. The “team” hugs each other in triumph, or consoles each other through tragedy. It is a magnificent show of physical ability, strength and endurance, as they go for the gold, the trophy, the championship ring.

No one else can “feel” the enormous weight of a writer’s block, or the pressure of a looming deadline. And no one but a writer knows the absolute, total thrill when, after hours of mental aguish, we find the one word that makes us literally jump up from our chair and yell “YES!” Usually, to an empty room.

The world revolves around athletes. From the youngest to the professional, families work their schedules around practices and games. Laundry, dishes and other household chores are for the “less talented” members of the family. If one of them happens to be a writer, it’s their world that constantly gets interrupted. (Pause here while I take the laundry out of the dryer).

Team pictures line the walls in an athlete’s home along with trophies, medals and other awards of achievement. And while it is true that the writing profession does have its own established awards, you won’t find many trophies for writers displayed inside glass cases in local high schools or colleges.

Writing is not a competitive sport, (although I know some writers who might disagree). For most of us who started down this road, either by choice or by chance, we chose to walk it, initially, alone. But on the way, something miraculous occurred. We meet other writers who wear similar scars of repeated rejections, and bruises from scathing reviews, and yet somehow found the strength to continue the journey.

We find “comrades in arms” through writing organizations, or meet many faceless friends on-line, who offer support and encouragement. And with each new writer we meet, we begin to feel not quite so alone as we did when we started the journey.

Not everyone can be an Olympic Athlete and in spite of what many people think, not everyone can be a writer. We may never be on the pitcher’s mound in Yankee Stadium, but we can write a great story about an athlete who is. We may never sign a multi-million dollar product endorsement contract, but we can create a dynamite thirty second commercial spot. We may never stand on a podium and receive a gold medal, but we will always be there writing the script for the announcer who tells the world of their achievement.

Even if we don’t perform for thousands of cheering fans, we will always have this one fact to keep us going: Civilization will still exist without the Olympics, the Super Bowl or the World Series. But without writers…

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