The baseball season is in full pitch and swing (oh, my Yankees!) and basketball is over two long months away. But I am still reliving the thrilling final two games of the NBA championship playoffs of 2013, when the Miami Heat in seven games shocked the San Antonio Spurs out of the title (a girl can be a sports nut too).
Of course, I relate everything to writing, and the championship games were no exception. In Game 6, when even the Heat fans had started to leave the stadium, 28 seconds remained. All looked lost. (How many rejections did you say? Over how many years? How teeth-gnashingly fast did your writing buddy get published?) But the Heat never gave up—and won the deciding game with three small points (June 19, 2013, http://www.nba.com/games/20130618/SASMIA/gameinfo.html?ls=pot).
After the final breath-holding Game 7, I was riveted by the words of the Heat’s acknowledged king of the court, LeBron James. “King James” has every right to be proud. He’s got more records and has won more awards and medals than even a hoops fanatic can keep track of.
Yet he’s weathered many p.r. nightmares. He’s been accused of arrogance, indifference, outright villainy. But when he signed with the Heat, he took a lower salary so they could hire Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Forbes lauded him as one “The Most Influential Athletes (April 21, 2010, http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/21/lance-armstrong-endorsements-business-sports-influential-athletes.html). Two years later, Forbes unlauded him as one of “America’s Most Disliked Athletes” (February 7, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eddf45fkhi/lebron-james-2/).
Given all this, I almost cried at his words when a reporter corralled him sweaty moments after the Game 7 win. He reflected, “I’m . . . from Akron Ohio . . . from the inner city . . . . I’m not even supposed to be here. That’s enough [for me]. . . . Every night I walk into the locker room . . . I see a number 6 with ‘James’ on the back. I’m blessed!” (June 21, 2013, http://urbanmecca.net/news/2013/06/21/lebron-james-answers-critics-with-game-7-win-i-aint-got-no-worries/).
As writers, should we not feel “blessed” that we have come to our writing vocation, whether part- or full-time through each of our individual struggles, doubts, and turnings off the track, through each of the ways we have honored and dishonored ourselves?
A friend wrote me recently, “I hope you know how fortunate you are to have known all your life what you wanted/needed to do. Even though I know it has caused you a lot of anguish over the years, it seems to me to be a true blessing, something very special that not all of us have.”
Do we take our conviction in our calling for granted? Sometimes I do, wishing (with shame) that I could expunge the ubiquitous drive.
But, like James, let’s remember and appreciate our status daily, whatever our t-shirts proclaim. We are blessed.
Not taking his talent for granted, or basking in past records or complacency, James admitted, “I work on my game a lot, throughout the off-season” (June 20, 2013, http://www.cbc.ca/sports/basketball/nba/game/1326270/).
And us? You may know the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer: “Practice, practice, practice.” A good agent can help, but we’ve got to have the goods.
At the end of Game 7, before anything else, James and his teammates, the “victors full of grace and gratitude,” embraced and congratulated the Spurs players. He also praised the Spurs for their excellence as a team and said of their final performance, “They pushed us to the limit” (June 21, 2013, http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba–back-to-back-champ-lebron-james-helps-elevate-beauty-of-game-with-help-from-gracious-spurs-080537235.html). The win was that much sweeter.
In writing, should we not continue “full of grace and gratitude,” for both supporters—family, friends, writing colleagues? And critics—critique partners, editors, agents, brave family members? All make us better. Do they not spur (sorry) us on?
Should not we too push ourselves to the limit? Pushing may not mean logging in a fingertip-numbing 10 hours at the keyboard but rather always demanding the best from ourselves. As James learned to discard complacency, so should we. Even if we write in “formula” genres, we can infuse our personality, persona, originality, and limitless imagination into the requirements.
Whether we have two or two thousand publications and awards, let’s remember to work on our game, throughout every season. Let’s have the humility to know we can always learn more, improve more, write more. That’s how we get to true expression of our talent. That’s how we get to consistent publication, recognition, and deep satisfaction that we are playing our absolute best and writing what we’re meant to.
Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, having published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, ReadLearnWrite, Women on Writing, Transformation Magazine, 11.11, and Unity booklets. Her monthly column, “Bloom Where You’re Writing,” appears in Coffeehouse for Writers. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally), with a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook in progress. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), she draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. With Trust Your Life, Noelle appears in the Unity Books 2013 “Summer of Self-Discovery.” Discussions appear on Goodreads: http://www.unity.org/publications/unity-books/summer-reading-series, Her webinar on the book of June 26, 2013, can be heard and seen on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?V=95EeqllONIQ.