Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Tennis and the marathon author
Tennis Masters, O2 Centre, London, 2009
I have been a fan of tennis and the British tennis players in particular for the last ten years. My son, who is an excellent player, got me interested and now he says I'm a better commentator than the professionals! I have really enjoyed the careers of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski and also followed less well know British players such as Arvind Parmar. In the last two years I have watched the rise of Andy Murray with great pleasure. But we also have some interesting teenage British girls to look out for, such as Laura Robson. And of course the great players keep on astonishing us, such as the one and only Roger Federer.
Many Brits grumble that our home grown tennis players are useless because they don't win Grandslams,especially Wimbledon. But our tennis players have shown true grit, determination and perseverance in the face of an onslaught of criticism. What does this have to do with authors who are writing novels?
Taking a break : end of chapter?
As a novelist who has been through the ups and downs in the last three years of trying to get my novels published, I have often been inspired by the tennis players. Young people in their teens and early twenties show an ability and inner strength to bounce back from deep disappointment and failure often not seen in adults twice their age. In the middle of the long hot grandslam season, I have watched Andy Murray crash out in the quarter finals when he was expected to be a finalist, face the cameras for a gut grinding interview within minutes of huge disappointment and humiliation and then come back in the next Slam, more determined than ever.
Slouched on my sofa, with the latest rejection in my hand, or worse, total silence after waiting for weeks or months for an offer from an agent or a publisher, I have found myself taking heart as Rafa, Murray, Federer and Dojkovitch pull themselves up by their Adidas laces, shut their ears and eyes to the taunts and humiliations and get back on the court.
The singles tennis court is one of the loneliest places on earth. No team mates to support you, a crowd that may well be baying for your blood and all you have between triumph and failure is the tension on your racket and your determination to persevere and win.
So it is with the writer's attic, wherever that may be. Ultimately all of the support falls away - Facebook, critique group, trusted writing partner, tutor and the family. In order to progress along the marathon of writing a novel, the end of which may be months or even years away, with no sure promise of reward, the writer has to be able to sit alone and motivate herself to write and write and write. Just as the singles player must stand alone for the long hours of the grandslam match with only his lonely thoughts to sustain him, so must the long distance writer be able to maintain their pace and their wordcount, alone and inside their own head, hour after hour, after week, after month, after year. Little wonder that so many fall by the wayside, unable to sustain the merciless self belief.
Is it all worth it? Ask Rafa and Andy. But I think that the reward for all the hard work is worth the journey and the journey alone is worth the setting out. Happy Writing.
The launch of my first novel, 'Secret Territory,' a novel for adults which took three years to write.