Tuesday, September 21, 2010
My son is playing JV soccer this year. He is not the best ball handler, the fastest runner or the most aggressive. But, he is the best listener, hardest worker and most hungry.
Listen Carefully - Feedback is the currency by which we all live. My son's coach stopped us after the last game. He asked if our son had played before; mostly because he was pretty rough during those first few weeks of practice. He then told us, "If the rest of these guys listened as well as him, the team would be sooooo much better." As a parent, this gave me warm tingles. Holy cow! He listens, really? Uh, yeah, to other people.
When the coach gives instruction, when the goalie redirects him and when the rest of the team congratulate him - he listens with ears, brain and heart. He takes everything, rolls it into his personal program & piles it all together. He gets better every practice & every game because he doesn't filter it through his ego. As writers, pushing ourselves into the big, bad world, we have to chuck our ego at the portal. Think of it as our personal offering to the writing gurus. If we don't, we will fall flat with the first bit of criticism that comes our way & we will miss the gems of wise advice falling from the sky.
Hard Work is a REQUIREMENT - My son gets up every morning before school & goes on a run with us. He isn't always pleasant. Heck, I'm not always pleasant either! But, we do it. It started because he needed the endurance training piece. It has continued because we all see the benefits. Besides, I find it wakes my brain better than coffee. So sad.
After one game, a couple of the guys told our boy, "If you worked this hard in practice, you would be soooo much better." He agreed. Don't get me wrong, there was a litany of excuses. "Yeah, I know, but.... (insert excuse here)." However, this little realization has pushed him to work twice as hard as everyone else. His ball handling, speed & aggressiveness have all seen marked increases.
I know that I too need to increase in all of these areas. Craft handling, churning words & pursuing writing with the zeal of a panda at the bamboo preserve. These are my personal challenges.
Seven Courses, Please - Hunger. My son doesn't want to be the albatross of his team. He sat here a few nights ago telling us that his goal was to beat so & so. In all of my motherly wisdom, I said, "You are your own best & worst competition. The only person you need to beat is you." Isn't it great when we realize how valuable our advice is - to ourselves! (Refer to point number one here.)
So, he sat down last night & reviewed our tapes of every game. He pinpointed where he could improve, what worked for other players & how he could incorporate it. He learned from reviewing his own work on the field. Another course of study for his game play.
I have read darn near every book I can get my hands on when it comes to craft. I read copious amounts of work - both on & off the bestseller list; classic & contemporary. I have joined a critique group. I have a marvelous critique partner who pushes me outside of my box. I blog religiously - to learn & be learned. I read all of your blogs.
What does all of this have to do with writing contests? Do I want to be a one-hit wonder - yeah, no. Do I want to be prolific - you bet your sweet potato! How do I accomplish this - listen, work, eat.
Contests provide pinpointed feedback. Contests push us to stretch our writing marks. Contests are good with mustard - not really. Well, I could always use more fiber in my diet, so maybe. However, supplementing the writing diet with contests provides a different spice & hopefully some perspective & forward momentum.
So, my question to each of you: How do you apply the listen, work, eat trichotomy to your writing & contest life?