The sport of writing

Writers.They’re funny types. Weird.

By this, obviously I am including myself.

Think about it… if there was an athlete training for a triathlon or a marathon or some serious, inevitable event, what would they be doing?


Training. Working with a coach, being disciplined, off to the pool at 5.30am, only eating roast potatoes on a Sunday, that sort of thing.

If it was, for instance, a runner who was training, they would be training in their area but they would also complement it with other ‘cross cardio’ thingies (*insert proper technical word here*) which would make their own craft stronger.

In short, they would be disciplined. Very focused.

There’s a tangible goal: a time to beat, a race meet next month, time trials for the Olympics, whatever … so there’s a specific thing to beat/achieve and the athlete does everything they can to achieve this goal.

They’re training, all the time, basically. And even when they’re not training, they’re actually still training because their posture as a person determined to do their best encompasses a lifestyle of training.

Writers are a little bit like this.

Except not.

Every writer I talk to (including myself) has seemingly marvellous, wondrous, heartfelt, insurmountable dreams.

They dream of the day they’ll have novels published.

But even better, to have novels finished.

Sometimes this dream even extends to having a novel “halfway through.”

“Yes, I was halfway through my manuscript when the Queen phoned me and asked me to dash over there for some afternoon tea and a spot of telly,” you picture your alter-ego (and terribly British!) writer alter-ego, the one who works prolifically, telling no-one in particular.

But you do, don’t you?

You dream of the day when you can put down your pencil, print out the document (before hiding it in a drawer to “be” for a few months) and save the thing to your USB stick before running down the street shouting, “FREE!! I’m free!! I have created a novel! And I’ve lived to tell the tale! Praise God!”

Don’t worry, we all do (all us writerly weird types.)

And it’s simple: just write your manuscript. Just write it. Type type type. Who cares if it’s not good. Do what every other “casual yet genius” writer does and “just put it in a drawer and forget about it for a few months.”

Then tentatively send it off to some publishers (“then forget about it for another few months.”)

Then one day (you know this story, don’t you!?) you come home from work and get your mail as you walk inside the house.

Or “pick up your mail” if you prefer that phrase. You’re nonchalant as you flick through the mail: bill, bill, fake personal letter addressed to the “home owner” but really just a politely worded spin from a real estate agent, wondering whether you are interested in selling your house and giving them a lot of commission, when suddenly you see it.

You see IT!!

IT is a letter addressed from Random House/Harper Collins/Penguin Books or something like it.

Slowly, your heart beats with anticipation as you open a letter you completely forgot about.

Then, as you scan the page of the letter your jaw drops (or it doesn’t really, this is real life. Instead you just stare at the paper like it’s an alien.) and you realise that, your dream has come…

Suddenly, you dance, scream and act like a tween seeing Taylor Hanson in person, circa 1995.

By George, you’ve done it! Not only have you written a novel, you’ve published it!

But, dear reader, fill in the blanks.

How did this happen?

Writing is not like a sport. Writers – well nearly all of the writers I know anyway – don’t leap out of bed at 5.30 each morning and write in the pre-dawn light, industriously chipping away at a clandestine novel. Pretty soon, a first draft has emerged … something so precious it needs to be hidden away in a drawer for a little while.

Unlike athletes, writers don’t do this … Or do they?

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