Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writing is Like Football

On my gaming blog, I've often drawn parallels between pixels and pigskin. Considering one activity is populated by "jocks" and the other by "nerds," you'd think wouldn't have much in common. Yet, when you participate in multiplayer gaming, a lot of the team principles I've learned over the years through sports come in handy. On the flip side, sports could probably learn a lot about preparation by analyzing gamers. When was the last time you heard of a footballer pulling a 36 hour workout session, straight, with only hot pockets and mountain dew?

The Indiana High School football season started yesterday. Teams across the state are holding their first practices this week. For the team I volunteer for (Go Shamrocks!), we've begun a tradition of the first day obstacle course. It's basically a torturous romp through the woods with activities dreamed up by psychotic coaches. Probably sounds awful, but I swear we make it as fun as it is grueling. By the end, we're just as tired as the kids, and everybody feels like they deserve one of those "I survived" T-shirts.

It's great for team building.

Apart from that, we try to address the mental component of football along with the physical. In between activities, we have classroom sessions, not where we go over the x's and o's (plenty of time for that as the season goes on), but where we talk about leadership, perseverance, and goal setting.

It was during the goal setting session that I wanted to stand up and talk about writing. The head coach was talking about how important goal setting is, and how studies have show that successful people set goals. More importantly, the goals they set are logical and obtainable, but not easy. They are adaptive to reality, yet still absolute. They are fundamental to how winners operate.

For instance, perhaps a kid wants to be an all-state player by the time he graduates. That kid will have a whole lot better shot at succeeding if he also has a stable of smaller goals, stepping stones to help him get there. As a sophomore he should set goals for improvement in the weight room, and compete for a varsity spot anywhere he can. He probably won't be a starter on offense or defense, but there are a whole lot of spots on Special Teams that often get overlooked. He would commit to excelling in the classroom. The very best players are both athletic and smart (I know sometimes it doesn't seem like it with football... but there's really a lot to process on any given play.)

The point is that the player needs to set smaller goals to help him achieve the larger ones. That's the best way to succeed. Plenty of schools have spent oodles of money (at the collegiate and professional level) figuring this out. There are whole programs devoted to sports science.

I sort of wanted to stand up and say, "That's what authors do with writing."

A lot of people, when you tell them you've written a novel, look at you with awe. Putting down 50k+ coherent words is as unthinkable to them as running 40 meters in under 5 seconds. It's something they hear about others doing, but don't chase after themselves.

One of my goals was to publish a novel. I didn't do it by just saying "I'm going to publish a novel." I did by setting smaller, stepping-stone goals. Writing a page a day. Editing a chapter a day. Researching self-publication for a few hours. Learning formatting and cover design. Those were all little goals.

This sort of approach came naturally to me, and I think have my long history with sports to thank. I've learned how to accomplish things that, at the beginning you think, "Yeah right." I'm no stranger to grueling obstacle courses. And, really, isn't "obstacle course" just another way to say "writing?"


Lauralynn Elliott said...

It's also like weight loss. When I worked for Weight Watchers, one of the big things we taught was to reach for smaller goals instead of overwhelming yourself with the big picture. I think this works in most areas of life. Baby steps.

Matt said...

Agreed. And that was sort of what we presented to the kids. It's a generic winning strategy for life. Pick a huge goal. Pick smaller goals to get there. Win. :-)

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