Competition and Camaraderie

running-573762_640I’m always finding connections between running and writing. Recently, I was listening to an episode of the Runner’s World podcast, in which they talked about the recent attempt to break two hours in the marathon.

Around 30-minutes into the episode, they talk about how the pacers in this attempt were special in that they were all elite athletes–ie, runners who are used to focusing on their own goals and winning races. For this race, elite athletes were running to support someone else’s goal, in the hopes that one of the three competing runners would break the world record. Runner’s World columnist Alex Hutchinson, who was there for the attempt, talks about how the pacing runners were so supportive of the competing runners, and how this isn’t unusual for the running community. One particular thing Alex says about this:

“Everyone wants to be the best, but everyone wants everyone else to be their best, too.”

This really stood out for me as a great way to frame the idea of professional competition and camaraderie, particularly in the writing world. As much as I love to support my fellow writers, I’m also totally guilty of feeling jealous of other people’s successes (mostly because all you see on social media is SUCCESS SUCCESS SUCCESS over and over and over).

runners-752493_640But I also want other writers to be writing the best books possible–the world would totally suck if only one person got to be the best writer, and everyone else wrote meh books. I’d way rather live in a world where I’m always striving to write the best books I can, and in which everyone else is doing the same. We all end up pushing each other and challenging each other and inspiring each other.

And unlike professional running, there doesn’t have to be one winner per race. Okay, so only one book can win some award every year, but every book can be someone’s favorite. The more awesome books out there, the more everyone wins.

Motivation Monday

I’m getting myself back on the blogging train after a couple weeks of off-line activity (marathon, NESCBWI, life with a dog), so today feels like a great time to share this fantastic comic by Debbie Ridpath Ohi:

It’s really easy to focus on all the scary “what ifs” and “you can’ts” and so on, but for today, let’s focus on what we can do. And then do the same tomorrow.

(PS–Debbie regularly posts writing inspiration illustration, so make sure to check out the rest of her work.)

Going to the Dogs: a Lesson from Olly and the Crufts Dog Show

Recently, a friend and I were talking about the phrase “going to the dogs.” Humans’ relationship with dogs have changed in the last few centuries, and how we think of dogs as great companions. How can something “going to the dogs” still be a bad thing?

And if anyone can teach us about how to deal with the bad things, it’s dogs. Example: Olly the Terrier.

Olly didn’t have a great showing at the recent Crufts dog show–major fail right away, face plant right into the ground.

But Olly didn’t care.

He was “all over the place” after that and ran the wrong way through one of the challenges, but, as the announcer said, he was “having a ball.”

Olly knows a thing or two about how to handle failure.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes we don’t have the show we wanted. But that doesn’t mean getting upset or mad at ourselves or quitting. Instead, maybe that means we should find the joy in what we’re doing and go after that. Maybe we’re not going to win the dog show this year, but we’re going to have some fun while we’re there.

Failure is hard. Disappointment is hard. But no one can take that Olly-ish joy away from you when you’re doing something you love.

From now on, if something’s “going to the dogs,” respond like Olly the dog. Find your enthusiasm, find your confidence, and keep at it.

Playing and Discovery

A friend who’s an actor recently shared this interview with Mark Rylance talking about spontaneity and ‘playing’ with other actors as a way to develop character. The part I like starts around 1:40 minutes in:

I don’t do a lot of plotting when I’m drafting a novel, so I can totally relate to to this idea of being in the moment with characters, and the joy of discovery that comes with that. Even though I’m married to a playwright and have a lot of friends in the theater, I never thought about spontaneity and character development in the same way in terms of acting. But it’s really cool to see that artists can have similar methods of exploration, despite working in different artistic spheres.

Do you feel a sense of play and exploration in your writing or other artistic work?

2016 Book Resolution Recap

Confession: I kinda forgot that I made reading and writing resolutions for 2016, at least in an official way. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t make some progress! Some recaps from 2016 reading and reading

1. Finish book series I’ve started: I did manage to get through a few series that I’d started, including Dairy Queen, the Wolves of Mercy Falls, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I still have some series hanging out there, but at least I didn’t start a bunch more series that I couldn’t finish.

2. Read a few books for grown-ups: I did read outside of the YA sphere, but they were all non-fiction. I think that counts.

3. Add some non-fiction to the list: Totally nailed this one! I ended up reading way more non-fiction that I’ve read in years.

4. Pick from books already on my shelves: Well, I think I did that once…

Audio Book 5. Read more, tech less: Oddly enough, I think getting into audiobooks actually helped me reading more while tech-ing.

6. Finish my current WIP: I did get through a revision of this WIP, but it needs some more work before it goes out and is currently on a break. (Sorry, characters, I still love you.)

7. Complete a new first draft: I ended up completing a new first draft! It’s still way early in the revision process, but I really like this one.

8. Write when I think I don’t have enough time: I definitely could have been better at this. It’s so easy to think that a half hour isn’t enough time, when you can do way more than you think you can.Happy Dog

9. Start outlining new projects: I’m not an outliner, but I did start a spreadsheet of potential projects with notes about what they might include.

How did your 2016 reading and writing go? What were your successes, surprises, and challenges? And what’s on tap for 2017?

Be on the lookout for my 2017 resolutions, hopefully tomorrow!

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! It’s the last Friday of 2016, and I am super glad to kiss this year goodbye. Let’s endeavor to stay strong, stay focused, stay positive, and stay supportive in 2017. In the meantime, let’s close out 2016 with a look at what I’ve been reading in fifteen words or fewer (because it’s winter break and I’m on vacation).

Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti
Caletti’s writing is beautiful, and Mads and Billy are heartbreaking.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
A fun, British-fueled romp toward the apocalypse. I need a miniseries now.

26.2: Marathon Stories by Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson
I guess I’m the kind of person who reads sports writing now. Yay running!