BALLS OF STEEL: Going for the Gold

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Like many other people around the world, I’ve been watching the Olympics. The tone, fit, god-like bodies, glistening with sweat, some achieving their dreams, some crying tears of disappointment. All heroes.

My favorite part of the events isn’t seeing which country dominates; it’s listening to the behind-the-scenes stories of athletes who lost, coming back four years later to kick some serious ass and win the gold.

Lessons learned from failure.

I have never in my life learned a lesson from winning without having failed first. Never. But when I have fallen down, lost all hope, and been beaten to a pulp, that is when I finally see I need to adjust a behavior or pattern to get past whatever is keeping me from success… which is usually me.

We’ve all exhibited self-destructive behavior at some point:

  • Submitted that script we knew wasn’t ready.
  • Clung onto one we knew was ready out of fear of rejection.
  • Pushed away solid, constructive notes because we didn’t have the energy for a rewrite.
  • Avoided going to a pitchfest because the year before we got too many passes.
  • Aligned ourselves with writing partners, good and bad, out of fear of writing alone.
  • Took advice our “Spidey senses” knew was wrong because we were insecure about trusting our own gut.

USA’s Allyson Felix (left) comes home to win the Women’s 200m Final from Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (right) at the Olympic Stadium, London (Photo by EMPICS Sport – EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

The first step to success is getting out of your own way and gaining focus. The second step is working hard, pushing yourself to limits you never thought possible.

But imagine training like a fiend, eating, sleeping, sweating for the dream, then your event comes. It lasts only seconds… and you lose. Worse, you can’t get another shot at it for four years!

At least as writers, we have the ability to pitch anytime we want just by picking up a phone. We don’t need to put our dreams on pause except to write and rewrite our scripts to perfection. When they are ready is entirely within our control.

I listened to American 200-meter runner Allyson Felix being interviewed about her four-year wait, “I’m a people pleaser. I had to cut things out this year and be selfish.”

One shot every four years. One. Shot. I’d say being selfish is acceptable.

So she trained with the focus of a winner, only carrying the defeat of someone who lost to motivate her instead of define her. She found a great coach and did everything he said, even if she hated it.

That’s what writers need to do, too.

Anytime we get rejected, we need to listen to the notes and work harder to make our scripts and writing better. Or maybe the writing is fantastic but our understanding of the industry and how things really work is what needs to be studied. Either way, it’s our job to give our dreams of being produced writers every ounce of our energy… unless the dream is something you’re just paying lip service to.

Perhaps those are the first questions you need to ask yourself: “Do I really want this? How far am I willing to go to get it?” Be honest.

Those Olympic athletes want it. It’s in their eyes.

Just moments before the race started, I watched Felix shake her legs as she was on the track, staying loose. The announcers were calling out each runner. Her stare was ferocious as she focused on the finish line. They called her name, and she instantly switched to gleam a gorgeous smile to the crowd, then quickly slipped back into the eye of the tiger. Intense focus.

The gun fired, and seconds later, she was crossing the finish line, finally winning gold at her third Olympics. It took twelve years for her to achieve her dream.

Twelve long, hard years of focus and determination.

How many years have you put into writing? How many scripts are in your drawers? Do you want this bad enough to keep writing script after script until one finally gets noticed… possibly twelve years from now?

After the race, she exclaimed, “It’s never easy. There are tons of hardships along the way. You just can’t give up and lose sight of your dream.”

Guess what?

She just described the life of a writer.

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2 thoughts on “BALLS OF STEEL: Going for the Gold

  1. Anne

    They got me pondering too these Olympics. I’m not a sports person but I couldn’t completely ignore them this time round as they took place in my adoptive town of London. I did not watch ANY of the events (although I am considering checking out the Paralympics – I’m a sucker for the underdog and the bigger the challenge, the better) bar the opening and closing ceremonies. But that was enough to get some points across and I did too make a parallel between those driven hard-working sports men, women and youngsters, and writers, filmmakers – and artists in general for that matter.
    One of the main differences, though, slapped me in the face during the ballet in the closing show. Dancers are probably the closest to a (not missing) link between the athletes of these Games and the artists of our worlds. They use their body. It’s extremely physical and mental. But with ballet and with art, physical and technical greatness is not enough. While athletes perform to the highest of their skills and capabilities, ultimately they do it for themselves – it’s a personal challenge, maybe for their friends, families, coaches and select fans too but mostly for themselves. Artists and performers, on the other hand, must also give themselves, give love, give beauty to as many people as they can reach.
    The giving makes the difference. Athletes are inspiring to me as far as the dedication, training, determination are concerned but let’s not forget that special ingredient that we must put in and which is the giving of our selves. Not so easy either.