I just got back from cheering folks on at the ITU World Multisport Championships in Spain. I continue to be amazed at my misconceptions of the triathlete world. When I train, I struggle against injury, motivational challenges, and work-athlete-life balance. And I always feel alone, exposed in my false pretense of belonging to the world of triathletes. So many of the athletes at races make it look so easy.
And then I started to really look. To see.
The day before my husband’s race, the parathletes gave it their all. There’s nothing more humbling than watching an athlete put their swim leg on the ground and then clip on their cycling leg. To watch a guide run next to his blind racer. On my husband’s race day, I had a chance to sit back and people watch, as athletes of all abilities prepped equipment, struggled with wetsuits, or just sat staring at the wall, as they battled an inner voice. They came from all walks of life. Many had some struggle we will never hear about, that they overcame to make it to the starting line. The amount of sports tape on body parts betrayed how easy many of them made everything look.
As I watched the athletes get ready, I was again struck by how similar triathlon is to writing. We write, study, take classes in POV, and take webinars on how to make character arcs. We Nanowrimo. We practice pitches. Some of us are brave enough to put a blurb out there for feedback, immediately cringing after hitting the ‘post’ button, staring at how juvenile our words seem next to other posts. Others talk of publication or getting manuscript requests from agents. Sometimes, they make it look easy.
Many of us worry, no matter how hard we work at writing, that we don’t belong. Our writing couldn’t possibly be good enough. We keep writing. We submit to agents. Often, we don’t cross that finish line, but get the proverbial rejection letter, instead. Twitter and Facebook are full of posts that tell of the underlying fear of inadequacy. (See this post on the impact of negative social media writers!)
The reason triathletes keep coming back to the starting line, why they keep training for hours and hours each week, pushing through trips to the physical therapist, the pain of surgeries, even sometimes not finishing a race, is because they know what it feels like to cross that finish line. There is nothing to compare to the feeling of accomplishment. No one else matters in that brief flash of a moment when your feet cross that line. You rarely remember your name being called out by the announcer. You just have inner joy, even if you are 10th, 15th, or last across. You overcame all that it took: self-doubt, injuries, the hours of training. You didn’t give up. It’s all summed up in a brief flurry of effort, and then it’s done.
In that moment, you realize that the point was to keep trying. To push yourself, test your abilities.
To overcome the struggle.
To believe in yourself.
It never had anything to do with finishing first or being like others.
Writing is the same way. Manuscripts take hours and hours of focus, trying, overcoming self-doubt, emotional exhaustion. No one will ever know all that it took for us to type “The End.” No one will really understand what we fought against to get to that brief flash of letters as we cross the writer’s finish line. Even if it doesn’t ever get published. Or maybe it does.
The point is we didn’t give up. We put ourselves out there, after hours of training, writing, and learning. Fought against self-doubt and mental injury. We didn’t sit on the sidelines and just watch.
We ALL belong. We are all writers, no matter how easy others make it look. It’s our own journey, our own struggle, our own finish line.