Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Bout Them Cowboys?

I've previously said I was going to blog about writing and specifically about outlining today. I lied. It's something that I do. I blame the writer in me for that. People pay me to lie. Yes, I'm also a lawyer too. [insert lawyer joke of choice here]. I'm going to blog about a subject that is deeply personal and close to the very essence of what makes my life worthwhile, a subject that can move me to tears of joy or shouts of rage.

Tonight I will watch my Dallas Cowboys take the field and be elated or crushed depending on the results. I'm gonna blog about football. Oh, yes I am. I love my Cowboys and I love football. Football is the very essence of life. You've probably heard all the clich├ęs about the game, that it is about yards and inches, that it is a metaphor for war, etc. But I'm telling you, it is more.

It is about the team. There is no "I" in team. Of course, there is no "we" either. (There is, however, meat, but that's a separate issue.) It's about individuals doing their personal best. Glory is no mere accident, but the result of sacrifice and preparation. Winning doesn't just occur on Sunday. It begins during the blistering summer sun. It continues in sweaty weight rooms and on the field with endless repetitions and conditioning drills. If the game itself can be measured in inches and yards, the preparation can be measured in minutes and hours.

The game is the culmination of those minutes and hours. Sixty minutes of proof that you have paid your dues. Football is played in all weather. Snow or sleet, rain or punishing heat--they play. They play hurt. There is a difference, you, see in hurt and injured. You will get hit. You will be slammed to the turf, bruised, cut, beaten. Shake it off. Get back up. Keep playing.

Football is brutal that way, but it is also poetic and beautiful. Witness the receiver in slow motion, working the sidelines deep. The pass comes in high, a jump ball. This is what those repetitions are for. He knows where the ball will be and his hands close around it just as the corner puts a shoulder into his ribs. Somehow the receiver manages to will his feet down on the correct side of the white line, to drag his toes across the turf, to hold onto the ball as he is driven to the ground. Brutal and elegant, in the very same moment. And the crowd goes wild.

Which brings me back to writing. Did I say this wasn't really about writing? I lied again. It is, because like the football player, the writer isn't created by a single event. Writers start out as readers -- fans -- who cherish the stories and the written word. We learn our craft and hone it one story at a time. The hard part happens off camera, where we sweat over the structure, the perfect word, the recalcitrant character. We write and learn and polish and then hopefully submit our works only to be driven to the ground by rejection. If you are a player, you get back up. Shake it off. Keep playing.

Football is like writing and yet where the two diverge is the team. We don't join a team. We create one. We make our own team of editors, agents and beta readers. We find our own support system through others who understand what it means to be a writer, to be constantly rejected and still keep pursing the craft. Many will fall by the wayside, but the hardy and resilient will find a way to success.

For the first time in my writing career, I am beginning to feel like I have a team. I am not the lone player pushing myself beyond personal limits in a secluded gym. I'm on the field. I have trainers and cheerleaders and coaches. When knocked down, I will get back up and if this is hard, I have teammates there to help me to my feet again. I have the confidence that I will succeed.

I may not have tea, but I have won The Great Tea Debacle.


Ed Pahule said...

There is also "Me" and "Tea" and "Mate" but lets forget that last one, unless you mean "mate" like you're Australian, OK?

And I'm sorry to hear your a 'boys fan. I bleed green and gold. I can no longer consider you my friend. :p

As far as writing being a team sport, maybe I'm missing that aspect of it. I still view it as the loneliness of the long distance runner. Out in the dark, all alone, trudging along, heavy, weary footfall after footfall until you reach your destination. It isn't until the end that you have people waiting for you with glasses of water, taking pictures, and congratulating you. You don't get an agent until you've passed the finish line with the story. At least that's my thinking.

Not saying you're wrong (well, you are a 'boys fan), just saying I view things differently.

Mary B said...

A Greenbay fan? I would expect nothing less of a weasel.

Writing isn't a team sport, but my point was that writing doesn't have to be the loneliness of the long distance runner.

During TGTD, I found support along the way, not just at the end. The recognition won't appear until the finish line of publication, but your teammates support you along the journey. You take the trip together. They see the toil involved and help you along the way.

Go Cowboys!

Lori said...

Even in track and field, don't you have people who help you wrap your injuries, encourage you to run a little bit farther, tell you if you don't make your miles or your time that day, that it's okay, that you'll do better the next time out? Don't you have people to talk to about ways to improve your time, work out with in the weight room, etc.?

I enjoy Mary's analogy and think it's spot on.

She's not all alone. There are other people out there who understand what it's like to want to run despite the rain, the wind, the snow, or the sleet, who recognize that we put ourselves through the hardship and the heartache because to not do so would be so much worse.

Pete said...

It makes me happy to hear you say that, because that was really supposed to be the whole point of the Tea Debacle, in my mind: A coming together of like-minded individuals who all write, who talk about writing, and who are generally a group. The competitive parts (which were never supposed to be actually COMPETITIVE) were more or less just for fun, just an excuse to assmeble.

My favorite football team is the Baltimore Orioles. So you know.

Midnight Muse said...

I get it. I think Ed does too, he's just made that you're a Cowboy's fan!

That is exactly what the Debacle was all about, a gathering of individuals spurring each other on and supporting each other along the way. Like a team. It takes a team to get that ball from one end of the field to the other, amdist foes - but you have to carry it over the goal line yourself. And that support doesn't end when the tea has been steeped.

And I bleed green and blue, just so you know. Go Seahawks!

TJWriter said...

I like this and feel the same way about TGTD. It's been such a blessing for me to connect this way with other writers.

P.S. I guess I'm supposed to be a Colts fan, but my dad favors the Packers, and I really just don't have a preference.

I'm just sad that I didn't make your link list.

*Skips off to her blog to post, humming, "Arabian Nights" from the Aladdin soundtrack.

Arachne Jericho said...

The connection is definitely the best part of TGTD. The competition I liked too, because it encourages--or at least for me--words words words. I can't say that connection alone is enough to really push me, but it is nice to have in any situation.

I support the Seahawks generally, but in my heart I'm always a Bears fan.

Ed Pahule said...

Oh, gawd, I hate the Bears more than the Cowboys! :p

And I understood what everyone is saying about TGTD, and to a small degree I did feel a connection with some.

Others? Well, that's why I dropped out. It was supposed to be fun and stopped being fun for me.

And just so you know, Pete, the Orioles hardly ever play football.

Kate Boddie said...

I have to agree with Ed that writing is something closer to a single person sport, I guess unless you're collaborating with others and in that case I'm way too controlling to do that so that won't happen, at least not any time soon. Maybe the intensity is there in writing as in a team sport but you have a 12 member team balled up inside of you while you write. Wow. I'm sure that might get a little uncomfrotable.

See you in the postseason, punk.

Go Packers!