I took up figure skating in 1997, inspired by a character I was writing about. I once commented to another woman at the rink that I was thinking of having a T-shirt made that would say, “You don’t have to be obsessive-compulsive, but it helps.”
I quickly learned three things as a skater:
1) You have to want it badly enough to risk falling. (I have left blood on the ice more than once.)
2) You have to want it enough not to be embarrassed by being the only adult on the ice with a bunch of kids.
3) It isn’t about winning Olympic gold.
My character, Ben Bradley, started me writing as well as skating. There I had to learn similar lessons:
1) You have to want it badly enough to risk failing. (So far no blood.)
2) You can’t worry about other people thinking you are nuts to try to write a novel.
3) It isn’t about writing a best-seller.
I also discovered that being obsessive-compulsive is a useful trait when it comes to actually completing a novel and submitting (over and over) to publishers.
If it isn’t about Olympic medals or making the best-seller list, what IS it about?
It’s about enjoying the process of both crafting a manuscript and mastering a new skill on the ice.
It’s about honoring my God and my art by doing the best I can in both work and sport.
It’s about enjoying friendships and demonstrating the character of God in my relationships with readers, publishers, fellow-writers and fellow-skaters.
I have pages and pages of unused material from my character Ben’s life. If I ever write the sequel where he goes to the Olympics, Ben’s father will tell him, “We won’t love you any more with a gold medal around your neck, and we won’t love you any less if you fall flat on your face.” Who I am before God does not depend on winning a Ladies Bronze class IV figure skating competition, or even coming out in the upper 50%.
I’m back to the rink today, preparing for Adult Nationals in a few weeks. I’d like to finish in the upper 50%, but God won’t love me any less if I two-foot those landings again or even fall flat on my face, and neither will the people who count in my life.