Writers, Olympic Gold and the Blue Fairy Theoryby Delle Jacobs
In 1940, the Blue Fairy told Pinocchio, "When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true." America took it to heart, for it's what we all want to believe.
Okay, that's not all there is to it, and we all know that, too. So we have expanded the Blue Fairy Theory to take in effort. Now we all know if we believe hard enough, work hard and long enough, then whatever it is we want, we can have.
Good thing I never wanted to be an Olympic skater.
When I was a teen, I loved skating. I lived for winter to come, and when it did, my brother and I watched the daily temperatures with a mathematician's eye, counting the days the temp stayed below freezing, subtracting two days for any one that rose above, until we knew the ice was safe. All winter, we paid attention, and every day we could skate, we did.
I loved sailing across the ice, feeling the cold wind on my cheeks. I had no talent, but I skated anyway. I tried spins, and fell, but got back up and kept on trying. It took me forever to just get the hang of skating backward, something other kids seemed to pick up immediately. But no matter how hard I worked, how much I loved it, wanted it, I had no talent.
This week I watched the skaters in the 2006 Olympics, awed by their talent, beauty, and accomplishments. Because I have skated, perhaps, I know how incredible their performances are. I know every time they spin into the air they are running a risk. They are pushing themselves higher, farther, faster. And more and more often, the risks they run end in a fall to the ice.
Blame it on the new scoring system, not showing up for practice, a previous injury, even thinking too much or not having enough confidence. These skaters are demanding things of their bodies and minds nobody else in the world can do, that skaters in the past might never have tried. When they fly, they may soar and land. But they may fall. The risks have become huge. Too bad they make it all look so effortless, because when they fall, it's hard to understand. Somehow, we wonder aloud, they just didn't have the commitment tonight, or wanted it too much, or weren't thinking, thought too much, shouldn't have missed practice...
Reality? What they are doing is incredible. They push their bodies so long, so far, so much, that almost all of them have suffered some serious injury. With the very best they can do, their minds and bodies can't be consistent, and some days just will not do it all right. They can be concentrating so hard on the toughest moves nobody else can do that they aren't thinking about the simple one that trips them up. They ask the impossible of themselves day after day.
They all want to be standing in the center of the podium when the event is over. But only one of them will. And their tasks are so difficult, with so much room for error, any or all of them could have a mistake that will cost them their chance. They could probably have a better chance at the gold if they have a more conservative, safer but inspired performance. Yet they take greater and greater risks that are likely to cost them the very thing they seek.
Knowing the stars are too far away to touch, they reach anyway. And every time I see a skater fall, I think not of what they should have done, but at how high they tried to reach.
I always loved the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, and I wanted to believe I could have what I wanted by wishing on a star. But I think even when I was very young, I knew that wishing was only one part of it. Eventually I began to understand that, like the Olympic skaters, I could put every resource, effort and talent into my goal, but still not achieve it. Sometimes the Blue Fairy doesn't sprinkle her dust where we think she ought to.
But there's something more to life than winning that one gold medal at the Olympics. For a skater, it's the skating itself, the wonderful journey toward perfection that never ends. For me as a writer, it's the same thing. I can't make the world accept my writing, buy my books as if I were the latest Dan Brown or J. K. Rawling. But I have my journey to fulfill. My dreams of gold will always be there, and I will always reach for stars I know I can never touch. And because I do, I know my writing will continue to grow. And I will grow with it. That is the true worth of writing to me. My personal best. My Olympic Gold.