While nearing the end of my fourth National Novel Writing Month challenge where the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November, it struck me just how lonely the life of a writer is. While all three of my daughters compete in either a half-marathon run, or a 100k bike ride where there are thousands of cheering supporters lining the route and cheers galore waiting for them at the finish line, when I hit that final word count verification button the past three years, there was no one cheering my accomplishment but myself.
Watching any competitive sporting event, especially the promos for the upcoming Winter Olympics or the annual Super Bowl, and seeing the profiles of all the athletes, makes 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, 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 laden with obstacles, and laden with the hazards 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 gymnast’s quest to nail the “perfect” vault. 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 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 that one word, that perfect sentence, 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. There is no “Hall of Fame” structure for writers.
Writing is not a competitive sport, (although I know some writers who would 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 met other writers who wore similar scars of repeated rejections, and bruises from scathing reviews, and yet somehow found the strength to continue the journey. We stop to chat, usually on-line, and offer support and encouragement before continuing on our way. And with each new writer we meet, we begin to feel not quite so alone as we did when we started.
Not everyone can be an Olympic Athlete, or complete a full or even a half-marathon and 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 and yes, even the World Series. The world will continue to evolve without theater, television, movies, radio and yes, even athletes. But without writers…
Raven West is the author of Red Wine for Breakfast, (Lighthouse Press, 1999) First Class Male, (Lighthouse Press, 2001) and Undercover Reunion (Createspace, 2011). Her short story “Lilith in the Garden” was included in the anthology “The Shortcut: 20 Stories To Get You From Here To There” (Author Identity, 2006).
Under her pen name FireBird, she published a collection of erotica short stories titled Journey to Dimension Nine, and a non-fiction memoir Rescuing Ruby (formerly Blood Tastes Lousy With Scotch) by Robin Westmiller, J.D.
She also writes a political column From A Bird’s Eye View for NolanChart.com
Visit her website at http://ravenwest.net
Undercover Reunion, a novel of romance and adventure for Baby Boomers, fans of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and anyone who has ever attended their high school reunion!
A struggling Internet entrepreneur, a Pulitzer Prize‑winning reporter, a wife of an impressionable state senator, and a famous voice‑over actress find themselves caught in a web of espionage and intrigue that threatens their lives and those of everyone they know.
When the undercover agents first approached Melanie Tyler and Kathleen O’Brian the night of their 30th high school reunion, the women could never have imagined that their innocent game of playing spies from a 60’s television show would become a real life confrontation with one of the most insidious criminal minds of their generation.