Finish the Race; Even if You’re Not Michael Phelps

By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

Last week I joined millions of Americans cheering Michael Phelps on to his record breaking 19th Olympic medal though he couldn’t hear a word I said to my television screen. Maybe someday my household TV will have that kind of technology. Won’t that be interesting. I might change what I say to the TV if I can be heard on the other side. But that is a post for another day. Today we concentrate on the race.

The best Olympic athlete of all-time finished his games with 22 medals. A grand feat to be sure. Of course there are naysayers and those with a grudge, but any realistic observation of Michael Phelps’ Olympic tenure has to conclude he is the best and finished his racing career extremely well. I do have a respectful awe for this man and his accomplishments, but more so of the tenacity and commitment over the 16 years of his Olympic career. Sure he had the few years he slacked off, which he readily admits. But overall he stayed the course and met his goals. He completed 24 Olympic races and received medals in 22. Not too shabby.

But what I am really impressed with is that, as far as I know, every swimmer who started a race in the London Olympic pool, finished  the race. From the person who came in with the slowest time in a preliminary heat to the last gold medal win from the US medley team, each swimmer finished his or her race. And we expected them to do just that.

Just imagine our reaction to a swimmer who would stop swimming when they got to the other end of the blocks  and simply got out of the pool or if they decided to float on their back to finish the last 50 meters. We would wonder if they were hurt of sick. But if these were not the issues and they just decided not to finish because they had no hopes of beating Phelps, or Soni, or Franklin we would be appalled, would we not?

The same can be said for the track and field events. I’m sitting here watching the men’s preliminary hurdles. One racer pulled up right out of the blocks and did not finish the race, but I am not appalled. Why? Because he pulled a hamstring and couldn’t physically continue. All the other racers finished and gave all they had; even the guy who came in last. To me that is impressive!

Think about it. Athletes like Michael Phelps are seasoned well-trained competitors. You might even say they are used to winning on the world stage. Of course they have to deal with nerves and personal demons, but thousands of hours of training in the pool and hundreds of races have equipped them to be steady and confident.

So how does the guy who has no hope of beating a Phelps or Lochte or le Clos get on the block, dive into the water and swim his heart out to earn “dead last?” He does it with courage, maybe even more courage than the most decorated Olympian of all time.

He does it by concentrating on his race, his goals, his time; not Phelps. He doesn’t look down at Michael in lane #4 from his lane #8. He focuses on his lane. When the starting gun fires he won’t tilt his head to see if Michael hits the water before he does. He moves his own body off the block and keeps his eyes fixed on his own lane.

And as he hears the crowd roar with cheers and applause while he still has 20 meters to go, he continues to push through strong strokes hoping to beat his own best time. Often he does because after all this is the Olympics and he is determined to do his best in his own race.

There can only be one gold, one silver and one bronze medal awarded per event. But everyone can finish their race/event.

As writer’s we need to develop that kind of tenacity, determination and courage. We may never sell as many books as Karen Kingsbury or be as famous as Beth Moore, but we don’t need to. What we do need to do is finish our race. We need to stay in our own lane (path) and focus on our vision and the goals God has laid out before us.

Do you have a manuscript to finish? Stop brooding over another writer friend signing yet another book deal and complete one more chapter in your book. Do you have a writing assignment due in a few days? Quit looking over at your mentor’s lane full of article credits. Keep your head down over the keyboard and get the assignment done and on time.

Personally, I have the hardest time finishing various writing races God places me in because I expend a great deal of energy worrying about and comparing myself with the other writers around me. If I would just channel all that energy to my race, I know I would be so much farther along in my writing race.

I want to keep this picture of Michael Phelps’ 19th medal race in my mind. Not because of Michael’s win as exciting as that was, but because of the other seven who gave their all and finished their own race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” II Timothy 4:7

What are your struggles in finishing your race? How do you overcome them?

Turn Write Series with Guest Edie Melson

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also a regular contributor to Novel Rocket, a Writer’s Digest pick for top writing websites, and the Social Media coach for My Book Therapy.

She currently has two books available, the best selling eBook, Social Media Marketing for Writers, and her latest project, a devotional for those with family members in the military, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle. Married 30 years to her high school sweetheart, Kirk, they have raised three sons.

Writing is All About the Relationship and so is Social Networking

When I first got involved with social networking, my reasons were—get my name out and prove to the gatekeepers (editors/agents) I was publishable. I never considered interacting with other writers to be anything other than a side benefit. After all, writing is primarily a solitary pursuit, right? Wrong.

That is a popular, but entirely false, assumption. Writing for publication is an endeavor built on forging relationships. And those relationships can ultimately determine your success or failure in the writing industry. Here’s a list of those relationships.

  • Between you and other writers.
  • Between you and the reader.
  • Between the reader and the subject or characters.
  • Between you and the editor.
  • Between you and your agent.

I listed the relationship between writers first, because surprisingly, it’s often the most vital in your writing life. The actual act of putting words on paper is a solitary act and because of that it’s easy to lose perspective. Writing in a vacuum can give us a false sense of whether or not we’re effective in our endeavor. We either wind up thinking we’re a genius or sink into the depths of despair because we can’t string two coherent sentences together. Rarely is either perspective accurate.

Let me add a word of caution here. You may be tempted, like I was at first, to insert friends and family into this role. Unless they’re also writers this dynamic just doesn’t work. They’ll unwittingly encourage you when you need a swift kick in the pants and administer the kick in the pants when you need encouragement. We need others in our profession to give us feedback, keep us grounded and provide encouragement. Social Networking is a great way to find these people.

The most valuable relationships I’ve developed through the years have come from those I’ve met through two avenues, at conferences and online through blogs, Facebook and Twitter. My critique partner and I met at a writers conference in another state—and we live only two miles apart. Several of my biggest encouragers came from meeting each other through another friend’s blog. My mentors, my colleagues and yes, even many of my editors have come from those relationships.

That’s an important fact to remember. People move around in this business, the writer whose blog you comment on today, may end up as your editor in ten years time.

So what steps can you take to build these online relationships? Here are my suggestions:

  • Answer comments on your blog/Facebook page/Twitter feed.
  • Comment on other writers’ sites.
  • Offer something of value.

Many new to the social media world wonder how they can offer anything of value online. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Promote someone else—this gives you credibility with your audience. Don’t be afraid of the competition. It may seem counterintuitive, but the relationships you build with others who offer similar products or services can advance both of you.
  • Celebrate another’s success—we all need to know success is possible. By sharing someone else’s achievement it encourages them, as well as others who may wonder if anyone ever succeeds.
  • Don’t waste people’s time just to get your name out there. Make certain that what you talk about online has value. (see the points above)
  • Keep it positive. Don’t ever forget that what you say online may outlast you. Take it from someone who knows—don’t say anything negative about a person, product or service—ever.
  • Don’t be a Social Media Hog. Translated this means keep yourself to no more than a couple of Facebook or Twitter updates in a row. Otherwise you’ll highjack the social media stream.

These tips will help you begin relationships that will last throughout your writing journey. Don’t wait to get started—introduce yourself—I can hardly wait to meet you!

#2 Every Writer Must Have a Well

By Elaine Baldwin| @elainehbaldwin

#2 Every Writer Must Have a Well!

In other words every writer must have more words than they will ever use in print stored in their brain. This might seem like a “Dah” statement, but I’ve met individuals who say they want to write, but when asked what they read their answers are limited to the genre in which they write.

I believe this kind of one dimensional reading habits results in one dimensional writing.

The best of the best writers; the ones we want to emulate, are ravenous readers. If they aren’t writing, they are reading…everything.

For the Christian writer, their number one book resource is the Bible which helps them keep the main thing, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the main thing. Writers like…

Francine Rivers

Bodie and Brock Thoene

Mike Duran

Morgan L. Busse

…to name just a few, keep their Christian worldview as the foundation for their writing. And while they are all committed to their genre, their reading material takes a wider sweep including non-fiction.

I am convinced the broader our circle of reading material, the deeper our well of words which leads to more relevant writing.

That doesn’t mean we have to read what we don’t like or is offensive. I only suggest we poke our heads out of the wells of our chosen genre once in a while. This stretches our intellectual and emotional muscles and that’s a good for us and for our readers.