First of all, let me announce the Odyssey of the Mind results. (drumroll, please) As you know, I co-coached and elementary school team of all boys (new team this year) and coached a high school team (same team has been together for years). I was THRILLED AND PROUD that my elementary school team WON FIRST PLACE in EVERYTHING! SEriously, they killed it. I was so proud of them, and now we're going to state. My high school team won 2nd place in long term and FIRST place in spontaneous, so they are going to the state championship, as well. (I should also mention that the other team from Edenton, the Chowan Middle School team, won 2nd place in their division, and they are ALSO headed to state.) Awesome results all the way around.
So now I'm trying to get back into my writing routine this week after a bit of neglect last week. I came across a favorite quote today, and it goes right along with something my writing partner and I have been talking a LOT about. This quote comes from Ronnie Coleman, a bodybuilder. He says, "Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights." I couldn't have said it better myself. We all WANT things, and we all can GET things, but we have to be willing to do the work.
As my friend, Jody, says, "Anyone can run a marathon if they have two legs (I would argue that some one-legged folks have done it, as well)." It's true. You just have to train and practice and commit. Not for one day or one week or even one month, but for a period of time that may be years for some. But still, anyone can do it. Yet only .13% of all people who decide to run a marathon actually do it.
It's the same way with a book. Believe me, half a dozen people I know tell me on a regular basis that they're going to write a book. They want to write a book. They have an idea for a book. But here's the thing, you have to DO it. Of all the people who START writing books, only 5-10% finish the FIRST DRAFT. A far lower percentage of people commit to the editing process and the act of polishing a manuscript.
Should that surprise us? Not in light of some other alarming statistics. Did you know that according to one study, 42% of college graduates NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK after graduation? And in a 2007 study by USA Today, 27% of Americans did NOT READ A SINGLE BOOK in that year. Can that be right? It is horrifying.
We will never grow as individuals, as communities, and as a society without learning, and formal education is only a tiny part of it. Reading fiction or nonfiction grows and expands our brains, our understanding, our patience and empathy toward others. Not to mention the fact that non-reading parents will almost certain have non-reading children. "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." Emilie Bushwald So Ms. Bushwald, does that mean that children are made admirers of crap reality TV on the laps of their parents? We know that children learn poor eating habits from their parents. We know that children learn exercise patterns and health practices from their parents.
But come on and give the parents a break! Like we don't have enough PRESSURE to be perfect parents, blah, blah, blah. But this IS a break. If every child that scoots off our lap is a reader, then we've given them something truly important and foundational. Truly, if a child can read and has an affinity for it, he or she can accomplish anything. What could be a more delicious thing to teach your child than snuggling and reading and good feelings all go together? I still remember all the books my mom read to me. My mother moved heaven and earth to get books into my hands, and prior to my independent reading, she read lots and lots and lots of books to me. In her lap. Snuggled up. With love. (Thanks, Mom!) It's no accident that my sister and I are HUGE readers.
I've gotten off track, but here's what I want to say to you today. YOU can run a marathon. YOU can write a book. Or whatever else it is you feel passionately about. But you have to DO it. You have to work at it. See the book THE OUTLIERS with the portion on the Beatles in Amsterdam. The Beatles were not an accidental or surprise phenomenon. They logged more practice hours prior to their discovery than perhaps any band in history. Is it any wonder that by the time they 'made it', they were so polished and cohesive?
I am a writer. Therefore I write. Every day. No matter what. With joy (most of the time). At current count, I have finished about nine long manuscripts (novels), scores of picture book manuscripts, hundreds of poems, and dozens of short fiction. I press on. I am not the 90% who doesn't finish, and I take a tiny bit of pride in that. (But no, I have not run a marathon)
Do I want to lift those 'heavy-ass weights'? No, some days, I don't, and lots of days I think I CAN'T. But I press on. And you should, too.
So go on, now! Lift those heavy-ass weights, pursue the dream, do that thing you long to do, and do it again and again until you are good at it, until the world sees you are good at it, and they will. Just ask the Beatles about Amsterdam...
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.