Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps nabbed gold eight-for-eight at the 2008 games in Beijing. When his mother faced interviewers, she spoke of the challenges her energetic son encountered in childhood. Bullied by other kids, diagnosed with ADHD, Phelps needed a positive channel for his energy, and he tried several other sports before he settled on competitive swimming. The combination of clearly delineated lanes and visible goals made swimming his perfect sport.
Hearing Phelps’s story got me thinking about Creatives–our inventiveness, productivity, fluidity, and generativeness; our creative mania, expansive vision, and the complimentary need for balance and focus and commitment to a goal. Once we have fully committed to a project, a book, we take the plunge, diving in to swim toward our goal: researching and writing a first draft.
Completing a full-length narrative takes endurance and in the process we may falter and become vulnerable to self-doubt. When that happens, how tempting to change lanes, cut across the pool, and begin a “new, even better” story. Certainly, there are false starts. But if a writer detects a pattern, if she is too easily tempted to change lanes, begin again, write another, better book, she might draw upon Michael Phelps as inspiration and swim to the end of the race.
The M.P. challenge: Complete that first draft–touch the end of the pool–and then take a break and a breath and a fresh look at the story you’ve created.