Sometimes there’s a time when all things seem possible, like the world opens up and we can tap unexpected magic. I’ve been tuning in periodically to the 2012 Olympics in London, England. My favorite sports — which is saying a lot since I don’t care for sports — are diving and the women’s gymnastics. In 1996, one of the gymnasts on the U.S. team tapped into that magic.
Kerri Strug was getting ready to do her vault. The stakes were very high. Dominique Dawes had fallen on both her vaults, and the Russians hadn’t yet done their events. The gold medal was at stake, and Kerri was it. But she fell on her first vault, and it looked like she’d hurt her ankle. But to the viewers, we couldn’t tell how bad it was — she went back to do the second vault like it wasn’t a problem. She sped towards the vault, not showing any difficulties, and launched into the air. When she came down, she nailed the landing.
On one foot.
And then we understand immediately after what she had done and how badly she had hurt her ankle. She was carried to the medal ceremony, a big splint on her ankle.
Writing fiction is like being out in that spotlight and making that decision. Creativity is not a team sport. Only the individual can be creative. Only we can decide to push through and be more. And there are so many people around who will tell us we can’t do it. I had a teacher tell me I wasn’t capable of being in a creative writing class, a very demoralizing and galvanizing experience. Other writers can be the worst — I’ve been sneered at for the genres I choose, because I don’t outline, and because I like omniscient viewpoint. Out there on the keyboard front, we’re like Kerri Strug on that day: Are we going to push through or are we going to let people rule us. But we know when the story happens and it’s got us in the spotlight, it’s magic.
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