Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Ultimate Athlete?

As an avid tennis fan (it's the only sport I am remotely decent at), I was glued to the television during the men's singles final of the Australian Open between Djokovic and Nadal. After nearly six gruelling hours of punishing tennis, the World No.1 triumphed and lifted his fifth grand slam trophy (he in fact has won 4 out of the last 5).

Perhaps it's a little bit of a stretch to insert the analogy of being a writer into the realm of a being a tennis player, but indulge me a little. I promise not to use too much latitude...

Before the beginning of 2011, Djokovic had a single major under his belt (way back in 2008). Nadal and Federer were firmly entrenched as the dominating duopoly of the game. So what it is that made Djokovic suddenly go on a tear that has crowned him a clear Number 1?

At that level they all play amazing tennis, and their athletic prowess is otherworldly. So what indeed makes up the difference between these gifted athletes in a sport where there must only be one winner? If physically, you are a solid specimen, and you've put in all the required hours on the practice court, in the gym, with nutrition, etc, then all that's left behind is that hard-to-quantify and cliche ridden, grey matter: mental strength.

When he was asked multiple times last year how he had managed to suddenly usurp his competition, Djokovic kept replying that it was his belief - his new mentality that was the difference. That he as a player did not suddenly play a radically different game. The men's final on the 29th January was indeed a microcosm of his burgeoning belief. He did not give up. He believed in his ability. He stood toe-to-toe with an athlete who is arguably the fittest player on the tour and he refused to break...

So, why am I blogging about this? Sure, as a tennis fan, this story is both entertaining and intriguing - but as a writer, I found some interesting parallels. There are indeed so many wonderfully talented writers already in print, and others waiting to be discovered. You compete among thousands to be represented by a literary agent, who then competes with countless others to place your work with a publisher who only has finite slots to fill, who then attempts to sell the finished product to the saturated market in order to make substantial capital. The question for the aspiring author is, why should your manuscript be the one to compete - and win - against such tall odds and plentiful competition?

When you have put in (and continue to put in) all the hard yards; when you keep reaching out, learning all you can from those who have gone before; when you hone those unique set of storytelling skills, and you continue to write - what is the nebulous extra bit that will get you over the line?


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