Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gold Medals and Writing

I was sitting around the other day watching some of the Olympic swimming events with a few jocks friends. As Michael Phelps (the Nora Roberts of the aquatic world) cruised to yet another world record, I couldn’t help but mention that I, too, had a win at our romance writers “Olympics—aka the RWA Conference in San Francisco, which took place at the beginning of August. (Okay, okay, a little shameless plugging that my book, The Spy Wore Silk was voted Best Historical Mystery/Romantic Suspense in the Daphne Du Maurier Awards. Now, Diana Holquist (congrats, Diana) and her trash-talking RITA finalists have way more to brag about—I mean, the RITAs are our Academy Awards. But hey, my heroine got to be in a video with Sexy Man. )

But I digress. Back to the spirit of competition . . . My athlete friends all shook their heads and said they found the idea of judging one book against another way too subjective. They much preferred the absolutes of athletic performance—the fastest time, the most points—where the winner was defined by a clock or a scoreboard, not some personal preference. I pointed out that sports like gymnastics, skating and diving were judged subjectively. But they countered that no, each routine of move had a clearly defined technique that a trained eye could see, so the scores were based on a set standard . . . in theory, at least.

In any case, it got me to thinking about writing “gold medals” and the spirit of competition in writing. Why do awards matter to those of us who pursue “intellectual” rather than physical endeavors? Well, probably for the same reason that athletes take satisfaction in the recognition of their accomplishments. Like long distance runners and swimmers, we spend hours in training—grueling sessions where we work on technique, and form. That daily grind is a lonely, demanding challenge, with no bright lights or cheering crowds. It takes discipline and determination to persevere. At times, we doubt our abilities, and feel that we will never be able to reach the finish line in decent form.

It’s easy to feel isolated and lose perspective on how we are doing—are our efforts any good? Are all our training efforts paying off? I think that both athletes and writers ask themselves the same questions. So when we writers screw up our courage and enter competitions, it’s probably for much the same reasons. We have to believe in ourselves, but hey, for one brief shining moment it’s nice to have others give cheer.

What do you think about literary awards? Love them? Hate them? Think they are meaningless?

1 comment:

Diana Holquist said...

Me, I just wanted to wear the skimpy bikini.

What is UP with those beach volleyball players?

Congrats on the Daphne Du Maurier Award, Andrea. That is awesome.

And I just want to point out that although I didn't win the RITA, I could take that Kristan Higgins in the 200 hurdles any day.

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