Wednesday, May 31, 2006

This week's quote and why writers are like athletes

"For a lot of years, I made my bed hard, and it was tough to sleep in it." -- Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, a recently deceased football player who overindulged in food and booze until he ruined his career.

What made this quote jump out at me? First, "I made my bed hard" -- what a concise way to describe the destruction of his life and that he's responsible for it. The "tough to sleep in it" let's us know that he suffered for his choices. He took a cliche and made it fresh and unique to his experience. Pretty impressive, and it makes the ruin of his life even more poignant to me.

It also made me think this would be a good guideline for a certain type of hero. Not the hero of the book I'm about to start, but the sort of bitter, resentful hero who's made bad choices. Or a heroine who's done that, too.

This is the second time a line from a professional athlete has appealed to me, and it got me thinking about the similarities between professional athletes and professional writers. Obviously, in many ways, we're different. Nobody actually watches me at my work, for instance, and I don't have to run around while I do it -- thank goodness! But in many ways, we're the same. For one thing, we get judged by our performance, and that also determines how much we get paid.

And professional writers and professional atheletes have to have talent to succeed. I know there are plenty of people who will say that anybody can be a writer if they keep trying and work at it long enough. Frankly, I don't think so. Desire and persistence are keys to succeeding, but I also believe at least a spark of talent -- an innate creativity -- is required.

During the Olympics, I learned that the body of the captain of the Norwegian men's cross country ski team at the Lillehammer Games used oxygen at twice the efficiency of a "normal" person. Now, all the training and all the desire in the world can't impart that to another person. He had a fortuitous combination of genes, and he got involved in a sport that enabled him to utilize that gift. I think the same holds true for selling writers. We have a creativity that simply can't be taught. If we're lucky, we're able to use it. If not...well, I suspect that's why some people always seem to wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

No comments: