Friday, January 29, 2010

It Doesn't Matter If You Win Or Lose, It's How You Play The Game

How many of us heard that a million times growing up?
I did, and I've never forgotten it.
Good sportsmanship was something instilled in me from a very early age.
Not that I did much winning. I'm probably one of the klutziest people you'll ever meet. I never did well in gym class. I was always the last kid picked on a team.
Sports Days would bring on measles, malaria or any life-threatening disease my over-active imagination could come up with. Of course, Mom being a nurse, it was hard to get anything by her.
Truthfully, I don't have a competitive bone in my body.

We were never a board game, card playing kind of family. Not big into sports.
So when it comes down to it, you can beat the pants off me at pretty much anything.
And I won't care.
It honestly doesn't bother me if I don't win.
Which might cause one to wonder why in the world I've taken on this quest to become a published author.
I don't know. I ask myself that same question.
A lot.
But here I am.

Lets use the analogy of an agility course. (Bear with me).

Here you have a diagram of a standard agility course. For those who don't know, I'm talking about dog agility. The object is for the handler (that would be me) to run with their dog, directing him over all these jumps, tunnel, weave the correct sequence, as fast as possible.
Most times if you're disqualified, it's not the dog's fault, it's the handler's.
I'm just learning agility and I don't know whether I will get to the point of competition.
But I think I'd like to try.
How I play the game is important to me.
I would like to learn all the ins and outs, front crosses, rear crosses, you name it, and sure it would be great to get out there and do well. But more importantly, I want to have fun with my dog.
So how does this parallel with writing?

There is an awful lot to learn about writing. Point of view, character development, plot, story arc...and on it goes. You have to know the rules and how to apply them. I've been at it a long while and I'm still learning!
I've even entered a few writing competitions along the way. (I think my body was overtaken by aliens at the time). I didn't win. Didn't even place. Oh, except for the time when I did win first prize in our local newspaper's short story competition. That was nice.
I won't say I didn't care about not placing in the bigger competitions I entered, but I didn't grump away in a snit wondering why those idiot judges can't see Pulitzer Prize material when it's right in front of their noses. No. I graciously accepted the fact that perhaps I wasn't quite there yet.
Perhaps I had more to learn about the game.

There is a delicate balance, isn't there?
When I see reports of men and women in the sports arena acting like total morons, I wonder what they were thinking.
When I see a writer alienating him or herself from practically everyone who could help them along in their career because they're upset over bad scores, a few too many rejection letters or a harsh critique, I cringe.
What's going on here?
Whether you are on a football field, an agility course or sitting at your desk re-writing your precious novel for the twentieth time, if you're not having fun, why do it?
Yes, it's a risk. And anything that holds the slight amount of risk is going to take courage. Most things in life take courage. As they should. A lot of things in life are hard things, things we'd rather not go through. But they creep up on us and we have no choice but to press on.
I want to make sure the things I'm actually choosing to do are things that make me happy. And I want to do them well.
Do I want to 'win' in the sense of being able to call myself a published author one day?
Sure I do.
But I want to make sure I got there the right way.
And when it's not fun anymore, I'll stop.


Jen said...

I heard the saying a lot growing up as well, my parents only mentioned it, it was more of the coaches that did the talking and the phrases. I think it is important to play the game respectfully, good team spirit, those who get a big head are the one's who will end up falling the hardest!!!

Terri Tiffany said...

Some very good points you brought up! I love to learn from others. I too have entered major contests and when I don't win,I like to take away from it what I've learned instead.
Someday will arrive.