Okay, hear me out.
As I spend this Sunday preparing – along with 100 million other people – to watch the 2020 NFL Super Bowl, all the newscasts are celebrating how hard the coaches, staff, and players have worked to get to this point. The years of sacrifice and practice, the day-in day-out commitment to excellence, the thousands upon thousands of hours of work.
And I thought, ‘Wow, how incredible to work so hard and finally achieve your dream of playing in a Super Bowl.’
Then I thought, ‘What is my Super Bowl?’
It’s so interesting that out of the many professions in the world, writing is the one most chalked up to ‘luck‘ or ‘innate talent‘ or ‘divine inspiration‘, rather than ‘hard work‘ or ‘commitment‘.
So let’s compare the pinnacle of commercial writing success to the pinnacle of football excellence.
In any given year there can be at most 52 fiction authors who achieve overall #1 NYT Bestseller level. Usually that number is far lower, as many authors spend multiple weeks at the top of the ranks.
On the other side, ever year 106 NFL players reach the Super Bowl.
And yet we often don’t hear about the many years of hard work and practice it takes these bestselling authors to reach the lofty heights of their profession. They get asked question like, “Where did your inspiration come from?”, and “What time of day do you like to write?”
They don’t get asked how many hundreds of thousands, or millions or words they’ve churned out to practice their craft. They don’t get asked about the manuscripts left by the wayside. They don’t get asked how many years of practice it took them to even make it as a published author (making it to the NCAA or NFL), let alone make it to the bestseller lists (playoffs, Super Bowl).
Just like NFL players don’t wake up one day, age 24, and decide that they’re going to pick up a football for the first time and head to the Super Bowl, authors shouldn’t expect to write a novel, or two, and make it to the bestseller lists.
We shouldn’t limit ourselves by any means – we should still shoot for the stars from day one – but we must also keep ourselves from getting discouraged if it takes a year, or two, or three, or five, for the results of our efforts to start to show.
It always reminds me of one of my favorite Hemingway quotes. “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
So keep on practicing. Study the playbook. Run your drills. Play in middle school, then HS, then college and the NFL. Expect to get a little better every time you play.
But don’t ever give up. Because one day – maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe next decade – the Super Bowl awaits.
Anyway, I’m a massive NFL fan, so I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks. Who else is going to be watching the Super Bowl in a few hours?
Any Chiefs fans? 49ers fans? Fingers crossed the Redskins make it to the Super Bowl one day soon #HTTR!