I hadn’t been on the tennis court for nearly two months, and even then, had slightly injured myself during the match. I was grateful to be back, yet, a little hesitant. Even though it was just a “Monday Fun-day” match, I felt a little intimidated. My playing partners and opponents were 3.5 and 4.0 players. Lovely ladies who can crush the ball. And, me possibly.
The first to arrive, I spotted the tennis pro, or maybe she’s the assistant, I’m not even sure, that’s how little I’ve played this year. We exchanged pleasantries, and I went into a litany of excuses as far as my expectations for my play.
“But you’re an athlete,” she said. “You’ll be fine.”
I don’t even know her, and here she’d summed me up as an athlete.
Those of you who know me, I would hope would agree with her assessment. My good friends and my daughter would probably slap me and say, “Of course you are!”
I remember a conversation with my daughter Kyle, an incredibly natural gifted athlete, years ago, when I offered I didn’t really consider myself athletic. Her response was like a cold splash of water on my face.
“Seriously Mom? I mean, you’re a great golfer, you do yoga, you bike, you’ve run a frickin’ (well she didn’t say this, but the implication was there) marathon, and you don’t consider yourself an athlete?”
Nope. It’s all about our self-talk and confidence. Sometimes, I just need a little nudge, a reminder of who I am and what I’m capable of to get me going.
Maybe you’re the same way.
I had a similar experience while attending the Highlights Foundation nonfiction writers workshop recently. I went into the experience unprepared. We were supposed to send 10 pages of a work-in-progress or a complete picture book manuscript. Life had gotten away from me, and all I had was a subject for a picture book biography, and this scene that kept running through my head.
I almost cancelled. I’m so glad I didn’t.
My mentor, Rich Wallace, is the former senior editor of Highlights Magazine for Children, and has written over 25 books for kids of all ages. He also happens to be an athlete.
My subject was involved in baseball, and I would assume it was for this reason I was paired with Rich. The first night we met, I told him about my proposed picture book biography. Rich was intrigued. I told him I had nothing, other than this scene that kept nagging at me. I left the reception and holed up in my lovely room, fueled by the magic of fireflies dancing outside my window and tree frogs encouraging me with their rhythmic chats. The words tumbled out of my brain and onto my notepad.
The next morning at our appointed mentoring session time, I slid into my seat across from Rich at a round table in the little library off the kitchen in The Barn. The Barn is not really a barn. It’s a new building, built on the foundation of what once was one. Instead of animals being fed and nurtured, writers and their ideas are.
With a deep breath, I read my first scene, what I envision as being the first page-spread of this book.
He looked at me. “You wrote that last night?”
My eyes met his. “Yes,” I said.
My heart raced and my palms were kind of soggy. I was glad I remembered to use my natural deodorant. I was feeling a little sweaty, kind of like before today’s tennis match. I didn’t know what his response would be to my late-night whipping up of these first pages.
“That’s very good,” he said. “Vivid, descriptive introduction to your subject.”
And, then, he said, “You’re a writer. You’ve got voice.”
Voice, for those of you who aren’t in writing circles, is something we strive for in this industry. It’s our own personal take on story, our perspective, our individual imprint on the presentation of our tale.
It’s like the way a pitcher holds the seams of the baseball to perfect his curve ball, or the uniqueness of each golfer’s swing.
My husband Brad has been telling me for years the same message Rich offered. I’m a writer.
And an athlete, apparently. My partners and I each won our matches 6-4. All it took was that little boost before my match, to remind me of who I am.
So, I offer this to encourage you to do the same. Go out there and do what you do, knowing that you’ve got this. Believe in what you know to be true.
Find your stride, find your voice.