The Sport of Writing

I love basketball. I like to play basketball, coach, watch it, talk about it, study and analyze it. Some might find this hobby obsessive but everyone has their “thing” and besides, there are plenty of fellow enthusiastic hoop-heads out there.

The talent level of the NBA is astounding: the power, the speed, the skill, the team play, the focus, the awe inspiring. It’s a great time to be a basketball fan.

Before pursuing my dream of being an author I dreamed of being a great basketball player. Spoiler alert: I didn’t make the NBA.

My love for reading and writing came before basketball but took a backseat once I made that first club team. The wider world of elite (I use the word loosely in this instance) athletics rocked my previous experience of playing small town junior high basketball. After witnessing the skill of other players, the knowledge of the coaches, the intensity of the competition—I was hooked. That was the inception of the dream, the sprouting seed of hope in my teenage mind. Maybe I could play professionally!

The team success and my individual growth as a player were motivation to work harder, to improve my skills and try to get really good at basketball. This inspiration put a decade long process in motion. During this time I continued to be an avid reader but the only writing I completed was for academic assignments. Eventually, the basketball dream slammed into reality and I realized that I needed to put the stinky sneakers aside for awhile.

Change was entering my life whether I was ready or not and choices had to be made. I decided to broaden my skill set, actively participating in new experiences in order to turn interests into hobbies. Basketball was no longer my defining characteristic. I picked up the pen and started writing.

I knew how to write but at this stage I wasn’t a writer. The skills were there but they were lackadaisical and unrefined. Thankfully, I had years of training to fall back on. Through basketball I had learned how to break down individual skills into component aspects in order to proficiently execute them. These skills could then be put together to build a solid foundation. The foundation is then expanded upon in different situations and scenarios. I looked at writing like it was another sport. Success would only come through diligent training and study.

I looked at my favorite authors in a new way, analyzing them just like my favorite NBA players—copying their distinctive moves and taking different aspects of their styles and incorporating them into my own. And I wrote. Pages and pages. When I was inspired and when I didn’t want to at all. I equated every word put down on the page to another jump shot taken in the gym. It is said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take—so I practiced. I got better. Confident enough to send some material to competitions and other readers. Club team tryouts all over again. Maybe I could write professionally!

Sometimes on the basketball court a sense of zen is achieved, one feels freedom, every movement effortless, one is in perfect harmony with the rhythm of the game. A similar sensation can occur when writing, often called finding one’s voice. In such moments it’s as though the words are pouring out as fast as the fingers can move, the writer part of a flowing consciousness that defies dissemination. Both acts are moments of creation. Understanding and skill have been focused by purposeful intent and delivered by a joyful passion. 

Lately, basketball has taken a backseat to writing but I have been given the opportunity to be the assistant coach of senior high boy’s team. The twelve guys are a coach’s dream: hardworking, attentive, unselfish, respectful, and actively wanting to improve.

At a recent tournament during a team dinner after a victory, a couple players were discussing how well they shot the ball during the game. The banter was harmless enough as they relived their minor glories but I took the instance to make it a “teachable moment.”

Player One: “Man, my jumper was so nice! Nothing better than a perfect swish.”

(General agreement from the others)

Me: “Yeah, you shot the ball pretty well, but a jump shot is like a hot girl.”

(All eyes turn to me because the only topic these guys think about more than basketball is the opposite sex)

(Pause for dramatic effect) “To build yourself entirely around the jump shot is tempting but risky. Other guys see you what you have and are jealous, wishing they had the same, but if you get cocky the girl, and the shot, will leave you, and then you better have more to your game or else you’re left with nothing.”

Player One: “I never thought about it like that before but I’m going to think about it now.”

Player Two: (Looks at me) “That’s why you write books.”

Yes, I write, but I still love basketball. The two are forever intermingled.

Advertisements

Dreams into Goals

boxing-ring-149840__180

What is your greatest dream?

We’ve all heard the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?  A teacherA firemanA dinosaur wrangler!  A writer!

I’ve written a novel.  Please hold your applause, people write novels all the time.  Withhold judgement until you’ve actually read the story, scanned a review, or  at least looked at the cover art.  But I will gladly accept a Like or a repost on social media (what an age we live in!).

I think the heart of this question is driving at something more fundamental than a set of career options (this isn’t the Game of Life where a flimsy plastic spinner directs a trip down a rainbow road).  I think the real question is, what do you want?  Not a chocolate bar when you’re a little hangry, not a booze fueled escapade at the Playboy mansion or 1000 likes on your newest selfie, but something more.  What is your dream?

Dreams might be the most under appreciated and overlooked aspect of humanity.  We all have them and yet rarely are they understood, instead we allow our dreams to evaporate in the bustle of daily life, or sink into the murky depths of the subconscious.  And yet dreams return nightly, persistent apparitions that they are, arising when we cannot look away.  Most dreams (mine anyway) are a series of incoherent images and events, but some are different, some linger, their power of influence stronger than the rest.  I think we encounter these types of dreams when we strike upon something that we truly want but have yet to fully acknowledge—the border between awake and sleep becomes blurred, allowing the tangible and the impossible to brush shoulders.

This encounter, however brief or reoccurring, elicits a combination of excitement and fear.  These emotions slug it out like WWE wrestlers, leaving you to play the role of referee—involved but useless until a final verdict is needed.  Excitement is fan favorite, arriving with fireworks and music but then Fear runs out with a steel chair and uses it when Excitement isn’t looking.  Wham!

Do you, as the referee, give the 3-count for the victory, reschedule the fight or give Excitement a chance to get back up?  Because we all know who the crowd wants to win.  You may think there is no cheering section in your corner but there is; the world is a big place.  Not everyone is born with supporters, and even if you are so lucky, sometimes a little wandering is required to find one’s own personal cheering section.

Now, back to the inner struggle: Fear doesn’t really care about victory, all it wants to do is keep knocking down its opposite over and over again.  If it wins then the game is over.  Much better to let Excitement wriggle free only to hammer it down once more with, “Not good enough/Your idea is stupid/Nobody cares/etc.”  On its own, Excitement lacks the oomph to finish the fight but it does have a trick up its sleeve.

When powered by a dream, Excitement pushes back forcefully, fueled by passion, and this is when things really get going.  Passion is focused, it provides direction, is unwavering and unstoppable.  Passion knows what it wants and will fight to get it. This is a major turning point: the dream has become a goal.

A dream is powerful but abstract.  A plan can be made to reach a goal.  There are distinct steps, thresholds, levels, and points of reference to indicate progress.  This is what I discovered when I stopped wishing for my dream to magically appear in front of me, when I actively chose to use my time and energy to transform the dream into a goal.

To be a professional writer has been my dream for a long time and from the moment I began Daughter of Shadow it transitioned into my goal.  The dangling carrot on the end of the stick that I’ve been chasing.  Well, now I’ve caught that damn carrot and I’m ready to take a chomp.

Publication is not the ultimate goal but it is a definite accomplishment.  One more step in the direction I want to travel, closing the separating distance to my dream/goal so I can see its form a little more clearly.

If you’ve found your dream I encourage you to persevere until you attain it.  If you are waffling in the grey I encourage you to listen to your intuition, to not simply disregard a dream as a mirage.  If you are wandering then I encourage you to continue to explore.

I’m going to close with a poem that encapsulates my journey with this novel.  Poems are a lot like personal dreams—they are loaded with intrinsic value and might resonate with others.  Enjoy!

I use the blank page to translate rumblings of spirit

I use the blank page to wipe up leaking brain chemicals

I use the blank page to unite past, present, and future

I use the blank page to embark into the unknown and mark down what I find

I use the blank page to breathe in who I was and exhale who I might be

because with the blank page, I am