Writing as a Competitive Sport

Having trouble with the notion that writing is a competitive sport? Maybe you haven’t been to the SWF (that’s the Sydney Writers’ Festival for you non-competitors). I’ve no doubt that as I busily type away here, there are hundreds of other bloggers busily typing away on their laptops about the life-changing, craft-changing, stimulating panels they’ve attended. Except, perhaps for the woman who sat next to me knitting. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to knit, but during  a panel at a Writers’ Festival? It’s not exactly quiet, that click, clack, click of needles, nor is it quiet to discuss the relative merits of the panelists whilst knitting.

But I digress.

Queuing at the SWF

Before you can reach that moment of profound revelation, you have to enter the marshalling yards, or the queue. The queues are strictly managed by the orange t-shirted volunteers, ensuring that the competitors’ equipment is of standard regulation. Laptops, iPads, iPhones are the preferred choice of the elite sportsperson, although some, like me, are still more comfortable with quaint tree-based technology. The Moleskine notebook and pencil.  And here in the queue, the sizing up, the eyeing off of one’s competitors begins.

‘They can’t all be writers,’ I tell myself, to ease the growing anxiety as I take in the vast numbers of fellow queuers. I look at the earnest but elegant, grey-haired, black patent leather brogue wearing lady next to me, expertly editing on her Mac. ‘No, no, no,’ I insist. This is my event. You all need to just slink off now. How is the agent, editor or publisher going to notice my manuscript if you’re all busy doing stuff too?

But then the orange t-shirted marshal at the head of the queue drops the chain and ushers us through to the Sydney Dance Studio 1 for the start of our chosen event. We all head for our preferred pole position. Some like to make a break for the front row, others hover by the back in case they need to drop out. I quite like the third row, in the middle. And as I take my seat, I have a last look around me. Who else is hoping to hear that one sentence that will provide them with that breakthrough moment, the missing link, the template. Waiting to hear a published author say do this, write this way, use this process and you too can achieve your dreams of publishing glory.

I wonder how many of my fellow competitors realise they’ve signed up for a marathon. Do they have more talent than me? Do they have the guts, the ability to push through the pain, the fear, the doubt, the sheer bloody effort of writing a novel? Do they know something I don’t? Did they know that lady had knitting stashed in her bag, which is why that seat was  conveniently vacant?

I’ve been to a few festivals in my time, and there’s one thing I’ve learned about eventing. Do not be fooled into thinking it’s brave to participate in the Q&A. You may, ask that brilliant question that the author has always wanted to be asked, but the chances are you won’t. You may find yourself stumbling at the finish line, suffering the public humiliation of being escorted from the field.

So, my SWF has finished for the year, but I shall continue on my marathon. There’s other seminars, workshops and my writing group to fuel my competitive urges. And the first draft of my novel to pull apart and put back together. And of course, there’s here.


*If you’re visiting from the Weekend Rewind – hi there & thanks for dropping by. This is actually my second post, not that I’m cheating, it’s just that I’m fairly new at this & my first post was my first Rewind post a couple of weeks ago, so I didn’t want to bore you with that!