In the Game - by Donna

I walked into a bookstore this weekend and found myself wandering up and down the aisles of the Young Adult book section. Somewhere between the volumes with author names beginning with R’s and the W’s, I pulled out a blue spine of a book and stared down at the cover. How in the world does this book, from an author I’ve never heard of, compete with all the other books on these shelves? Books with big name, proven authors and gorgeous displays of mesmerizing covers on endcaps for everyone to see. The even bigger question was how do I, a yet unpublished author of Young Adult books, compete with all of these amazing titles? It felt completely overwhelming.

Competition is hard wired into my nature. I can’t help it. My father was a star high school athlete and later a coach. Not the Saturday morning kind of volunteer coach, but a football/basketball “does-it-for-a-living” kind of coach. Growing up in Texas, that was serious. There were many a Saturday morning when boys with squeaky adolescent voices would show up on our porch to ask, “Can your father come out and play?” One of my favorite childhood pictures shows a bench full of gawky fifteen year olds in basketball uniforms with one tiny, pigtailed little girl sitting at the end. That was me.

When I was barely able to hold a glove, my dad was playing catch with me in the front yard. That led to a passion for playing fast pitch softball. I was a catcher –a not-so-glamorous position that required a high tolerance for pain. I spent many a summer day, with my broken fingers taped together inside my glove, catching a ball thrown toward me at amazing speeds. I didn’t endure all of that just for the love of the game. I played to win.

That childhood love of competing has, for the most part, served me well. It’s helped me do things I never thought I could do-both personally and professionally. And even though competition surely has a dark side, here are some things that help me when I feel that competitive spirit kick in:

1) Compete at the proper level. In order to make the best of my competitive energy there has to be a chance of actually “winning.” The goal has to be obtainable-maybe slightly beyond my grasp-but possible to reach. If the goal is too overwhelming, it’s easy to lose the desire to compete, give up and walk away. Sometimes my writing goals are to finish a couple of pages of a new manuscript, sometimes the goal is more far reaching-but there always has to be the possibility that I can actually get there. That’s when I’m competing at my best.

2) Celebrate the “wins” along the way. I’m approached every day by people who want to write books, but few actually take the journey. So I try to compete with myself to reach the next step in the process-not the ultimate goal. I celebrate finishing a manuscript, completing the edits, finding an agent, going out on submission. I know the odds to this game, but each time I reach one of those milestones, I know I’m joining a smaller and smaller percentage of writers out there.

3) Find a support group that serves as a team. When the team wins, you win. The Muses have already had amazing success this year and we all celebrate together every single one. A good writers’ group should function like that. Supportive, challenging and focused toward the success of all. I’ve been involved in groups in the past that it was apparent that some participants had absolutely no desire to help anyone else in the group. They just wanted their moment in the spotlight. You can’t have a softball team full of fantastic catchers-you need every position to play their unique best.

So if you happen to see me wandering around Barnes and Nobles with a completely overwhelmed expression, I hope you’ll remind me-the game is on. And, while you’re at it, remind yourself, too.


Thanks so much for your encouragement! Always welcome.

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