Writerly Wednesday: Olympics edition

Quick note: I’ve been published! My triptych of triptychs about the Galapagos (first seen right here on the blog) was accepted by Sugar Mule for their 41st issue. Yay! Please click to check out many great stories and poems about “women and place.”

So, it’s the Olympics. Unless you live in a cave (and maybe even then) you know this already. You’ve heard all about the Opening Ceremonies, NBC’s commentators, their selective editing, and the tape delays. (SPOILER ALERT: you’ll survive.) Don’t worry I’m not going to talk about any of that.

All I want to do is share a few thoughts inspired by the Olympic spirit. This first one is mine.

• “Pressure makes us”

Rewind to about a year ago, and the US women’s national soccer team and I were in roughly the same place we are today. Them: On the verge of winning gold in a major international competition. Me: Awed and inspired.

It’s uncanny how much of what I wrote back then applies again now — including the dramatic late-in-the-game goals…

The US’s mind-blowing comeback win not only revved me up for the rest of the night, it also reminded me that pressure can be a good thing. Sure, sometimes it’s intimidating, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. But sometimes it pushes us to work harder than ever before. Sometimes it brings out our best. Sometimes it makes us who we are.

• “Lessons from Olympians” by T.S. Bazelli

Comparisons between Olympians and writers are inevitable, and not only does Tessa cover the similarities well, but she also brings up a couple new points that I think are invaluable for us to keep in mind.

In gymnastics and diving, the degree of difficulty is sometimes the determining factor in winning. When it comes to writing, are you taking risks and trying things that make you uncomfortable?

• “The Power and Glory of Sportswriting” by Nicholas Dawidoff

I’ve often thought that I would love to be a sportswriter or athlete profiler. These two quotes, combined with my deep appreciation of “the game,” might help to explain why.

When writing about sports, you have to learn to navigate an odd literary predicament: Your audience often already knows the outcome before it starts reading. An editor at Sports Illustrated once advised me that the art of the work rested in telling people who already know what happened a story so compelling that they forget everything and, at the end, wish they’d been there.

Where too much recent American literature is less concerned with any search for meaning than the preening desire to be admired, really good sportswriting is grounded in curiosity and revelation, an enthusiast’s notes. And while few authors can compete with the reality, a writer can deepen it, preserve what happened and then mine it for the deeper human qualities at play that are the essence of lasting writing.

• “Going for Gold” by Shari Cylinder

On that note, here’s a great summary of what the Olympics — and all sports, really — mean to me.

It’s not about winning gold, silver, or bronze. It’s not about getting the highest score. It’s about the diligence, dedication, and devotion the athletes put in for so many years. It’s about the way they motivate us to do the same — whether we’re swimming the backstroke, writing a book, studying our way through med school, choreographing dances to the music in our hearts, anything. No matter what, these people inspire us to push our limits. To dream further. To dream more. It’s about teamwork between people — like the golden women’s gymnastics team and the rockstar volleyball duo of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor — and about teamwork between nations. It’s about sportsmanship, unity, and love.

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7 Comments

  1. Congrats on the publication and thanks for the signal boost! I really love that last quote. I think it sums up just why I love watching the Olympics.

  2. Congratulations on being published! That is awesome! :)

    Also: YAY for the Olympics! I’m going to be seriously disappointed when they’re over on Sunday. They’ve been such fun to watch. Thanks for including a link to my post about it!

    Oh … did you hear that the Spice Girls are supposed to perform two songs at the closing ceremonies? So excited!

  3. Congratulations on being published! That’s great.

    I’ve been avoiding the Olympics, but then yesterday I was in a doctor’s waiting room and the equestrian events happened to be on, so I watched it happily. There were more people waiting than there were chairs, so I got to see quite a bit. It was certainly more fun than the last time I had a long wait at a doctor’s office, which was the day of Michael Jackson’s funeral.

  4. Congrats on getting published, Kristan!

    I agree that the Olympics is great inspiration for writing (I wrote about this on my blog, too!). I especially love the quote on the level of difficulty yielding more results. The second we stop challenging ourselves, we’ve lost, no matter what the endeavor.

  5. Juliann

    Congratulations on being published! I loved your writings about the Galapagos, so am not surprised that they did, too.

    The Olympics! The Olympics! My thoughts on the Olympics can be summed up with exclamation points. No words necessary.

  6. I haven’t watched ANY of the Olympics at all this time around. I have to say that I much prefer the winter Olympics. First of all, it’s winter, so I’m in stay-inside-and-watch-TV mode. And then, I don’t know, I like the skiing and skating and (of course) the curling. I’ve followed a couple of storylines–like Usain Bolt’s repeat wins of the 100m and 200m–but I have not been compelled to watch any of it.

  7. Thanks, everyone!

    LOL Juliann.

    Sonje, I have to admit that surprises me. I would have thought you’d be all over women’s soccer and beach volleyball, and then maybe a random sport like water polo or indoor cycling. :P

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