Wednesday, August 1, 2012

IWSG: The eighth girl


Wow, these have been going on for almost a year now. If you haven’t come across one of these before, be sure to hop on over to Ninja Captain Alex and sign up.

I’m sure I’m not alone in watching a ton of Olympics action lately, and I’ve been struck by something: the cost of being an Olympian. I was watching an interview with a former gymnast from the 1996 games, and in the interview she said they were still paying off credit cards. Sixteen years later and they’re still paying it off.

And that made my heart sink because honestly, only seven girls made that team. You might have noticed the teams are smaller now, just five girls for the women’s competition. Five. We live in a country with right around 300 million people, and we sent five.

Okay, I can hear what you’re saying, at least half of them aren’t even the right gender, and three quarters of those who are left are too old to pursue gymnastic as a career. That drops the number down to 40 million girls who may (or may not) have dreamed to be on the team. Just make the team, mind you, not even medal. Then I immediately thought about that eighth girl, the one who was damned close, but just not good enough to make it. Once you make the Olympics, you’ve already sacrificed and paid for trainers, moved away from home and sacrificed your childhood. And that eighth girl didn’t make it.

In the interview, they asked the gold medal winning Olympian if it was worth it. Of course her answer was yes. I want to ask that eighth girl. Was it worth it? She sacrificed and trained and went to worlds, but was never good enough to take home the gold medal at the Olympics.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m that eighth girl. I’ve accomplished more than I ever planned to. I’ve come closer than I’d ever hoped to, but is close good enough? Will this all be worth it? I read about great authors who just stick with it forever before landing a contract and an agent (I’m looking at you Beth Revis who had a book go to the acquisitions committee and get turned down). I don’t know if I have that ability to pick up and keep going. Could I suffer the heart break of that eighth girl and still keep to it? Would it have been worth it?

Luckily, this isn’t gymnastics, so I don’t have to drop it all if I miss on the first run up. Gymnasts need to be young to make the Olympics, so they have one, maybe two shots at it. But with writing, I can have as many chances as I want or need. How many times can I survive being the eighth girl? How many times can I brush up against my dreams and be turned around and sent back to the keyboard?

Do I have it in me? I don’t know, but I’m finding out.  

26 comments:

  1. I like how you said, "But with writing, I can have as many chances as I want or need." We don't have to worry about age restrictions or slots to be filled. Good points, Rena. And great parallel between the Olympics and writing. Well done, fellow IWSG member!

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    1. Thanks, and thanks for stopping by. I love the IWSG, so awesome.

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  2. I don't think you are destined to be the eighth girl. But even if you were, you seem like someone who is determined enough to keep on going until you make it happen. Stick with it, you have the talent. All you need it to match it up with the right agent, or publisher. But it takes time.

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    1. That's sweet. I know that with writing it's more about persistence than anything else, but I sometimes wonder. I've been told I have talent but not enough in a couple other venues of my life, so I'm heartily aware of those possibilities.

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  3. I show Arabian horses, and I used to compete every year at the Youth Nationals in Oklahoma. You have to qualify to get there and it's very competitive. One of the vendors used to sell a hat that said, "I got the gate at Youth Nationals." (Getting the gate meaning you didn't even make your first cut once you got there.) I always loved the attitude behind it. Okay, so you may not have gone National Champion, or Top Ten, or even made your cut, but you made it there! And that's awesome. Yeah, it would suck to be girl #8, but what an accomplishment to just make it that far! I bet she'd say it was worth it. :)

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    1. I love this! I went to nationals in foil once (Div II, so don't get excited) and it was really great just to get to go.

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  4. Mary Wesley had her first novel published at the age of 70-something!

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    1. I hope I'm lucky enough to not have to wait forty years for my debut novel! But I like the sentiment, at least we don't have to be awesome at 12 to get a book published (otherwise it would be that fan fic with unicorns on the bridge of the Enterprise!).

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  5. Great comparison. I think the same thing when I watch the Olympics. And how much of the Olympics is the mindset, the ability to carry on through injury, and the same for writing, to pick ourselves up.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, and yeah, I'm such a wimp when it comes to injury. I'd never make it.

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  6. I was just talking about this with my family!

    How athletes train for years and spend all that money and all that TIME...just for a chance to get to the Olympics. They're not guaranteed to make the team, or the cut, or the gold medal.

    The only reason why they would go that far is passion. Obsession. I can't see how it would be anything less. I think writers are the same way.

    We go through so much stuff, the only thing to really get us through is our passion for our work.

    If you decide you want it enough, I think you can't help BUT get the gold. :D

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    1. I can't imagine swimming as much as Phelps does, and I swam varsity in high school. I just remember counting the seconds until practice was over. Clearly, I didn't have the passion for it. If I had then maybe I'd have gone on, so I think it really is about passion.

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  7. I like your analogy, and the unfortunate truth with sports and gymnastics seems to be that even as one improves at the sport the human body can't keep up as one ages.
    Is the human spirit the same, in that even as one's writing improves, the spirit loses stamina as rejections pile up?
    I hope not! Good thing the IWSG is here to shoot some adrenalin into our flagging enthusiasm.
    Keep on this. I'll bet even the eighth girl is a darn good gymnast and won a lot of competitions on her way to her near miss.

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    1. If you check out Liz's comment, you can see that she did win a lot of competitions, even past the olympics, which is awesome. I think the thing with the olympics is it tends to make people compare themselves to others (and I really need to not do that!).

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  8. This gave me goosebumps all over too. In all honesty - I want to hear what the 8th girl has to say too. But I really think it'll be worth it. I think it's important to look back at your accomplishments and feel proud. Although she didn't go to the Olympics, 8th in the USA is still impressive. :)

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    1. I guess the other thing to remember is that she was 8th (or sixth as they case may be) on that particular day. On any other given day, she could have come in higher, but that day she was 6th. Some days go better than other days. Even when those days are at the olympics.

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  9. Fantastic analogy. I often feel the same way. We just have to keep pushing forward. Learn, write, revise, query. Persistence will hopefully pay off. :)

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  10. Luckily, unlike being an olympian, we don't have an age limit on how long we're able to do this job. :) I figure as long as we keep going, it will happen. It has to :)

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    1. hopefully, if my joints start to act up, I can learn how to hit the space bar with my left thumb! And again, congrats on your contract!

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  11. Wise post. I've asked myself this question and decided, it doesn't matter if I make it to the Olympics or not. Writing is like therapy and even if I never make money from it...it saved me a pretty penny and some brain cells.

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    1. YES, writing is absolutely my therapy. In fact, it's the carrot I use to get really big things done, so even if it never goes anywhere, I'll be writing until I die.

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  12. Great post! Very though-provoking. I'm in it because I enjoy it, so yes, it's worth it. :)

    IWSG #179 (At least until Alex culls the list again. :P)

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  13. The eighth girl was Theresa Kulikowski. She actually placed 6th in the 1996 olympic trials, but still didn't make the cut because Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu petitioned onto the national team. (They couldn't compete due to injury, but their overall scores in competitions were enough to garner them a spot.)

    But it wasn't like her gymnastics career just stopped when she didn't make the olympic team. She continued to compete in world competitions until 2002. And then she went into physical therapy, so she's still hanging around the gym. So I guess that means it was worth it. Why bother with it otherwise, right? And let's not forget that not everyone who went to the Olympics got to compete. Not everyone ended up on a cereal box. Some of those girls made a lot of money from endorsements. Others have credit card bills sixteen years later.

    There's a lot of pressure on the Internet to be someone, to be published, to have that gold medal of the right agent or publisher. But that's not the important part. None of that stuff matters. Because those girls didn't love gymnastics because they made the Olympic team. They made the Olympic team because they loved gymnastics.

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    1. Have I mentioned how awesome it is that you know that? You completely rule. And somehow, knowing that she went to world competitions until 2002 makes me feel better. Not that I should, but bully for her.

      And you have a helluva point about the pressure the internet puts on us. It's so silly, but sometimes it feels like we can't be people without having a contract/agent/gold medal.

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  14. i've been watching some matches on my ipad and it's fabulous! so glad i get to see different things! always wondered how they afford to go with their life dedicated to training. its all about sponsorship!

    as for the writing olympics (which i cant believe no one did a blogfest in honor of!)
    i wonder if i have wat it takes, too! stamina, endurance, dedication - i have those. talent is wat i worry about, good but am i top 5% of the world? and i dont need a gold medal, i just want to get there!

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    1. talent is overrated. I've been told off about my talent numerous times, but you can make up for talent with hard work, dedication and passion.

      I think passion maybe the real key.

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