I’ve been watching and reading a lot about the Olympics, and I’ve been struck by the parallels between the athletes … and writers?
Bear with me.
The Olympics occur every four years, and when Trail Angel comes out this week, it will mark almost exactly four years since I first started. Delayed gratification is certainly one thing writers have in common with Olympic athletes.
There’s more. While we celebrate the accomplishments of superstars like Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, they are to the games what Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are to the world of book publishing: rare exceptions. Most of the 10,000-plus athletes in Rio will compete with little hope of fame or fortune.
Consider the American women’s rowing team, nine women who are as dominant in their sport as Phelps is in his. They won gold on Saturday, meaning they haven’t lost an Olympic or world rowing championship in 10 years.
Yet the team members live in obscurity. These graduates of top-notch universities postpone careers to train together for four years, living with host families while earning a meager stipend. The daily sacrifices they make during a rigorous training regimen are all in hope of the brief glory that can come with Olympic gold — and something else, I would argue, less tangible but longer lasting.
It sounds trite to call the training its own reward, yet I see something profound in the sense of satisfaction that comes through sacrifice in pursuit of ennobling goals. The dream of Olympic gold drives Olympic athletes, just as writers fantasize about best-seller lists, critical acclaim and movie deals. But that level of success is too rare, too reliant on serendipity to maintain the daily commitment that keeps athletes at their training, writers at their keyboards.
My book comes out this week. Friends, family, maybe even strangers will offer their congratulations and, one can hope, a few words of praise. I’ll be as proud as any gold-medal winner, even if I don’t sell enough books to repay the time and cost of writing it.
Then the moment will pass, nearly as fleeting as the Olympics themselves, and it will be back to the grind: the daily sacrifices that are the price of achieving any worthwhile dream. If you can’t find reward in the striving itself, you’ll never make it to the next games.
Trail Angel will be available in hardback and in Kindle starting Wednesday, but you can pre-order before then at this link.