Super Bowl LI between NE Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will long be known as the “greatest comeback ever in Super Bowl history.” I stayed up for it, which for a working mom who gets up at 4 am is a HUGE feat.
Certain family members of mine lost heart in the third quarter. Utterances such as “Game’s over” hit me in the gut, and had me sitting up, arguing, “The game’s not over till the game’s over.”
Writers, this game is for us.
Many a writer has felt despair, rock-bottom hopelessness. Scrabbled, bloody-fingered and bruised, uphill only to be knocked down twice the distance climbed. Many writers have invited that nasty Q-word into their lives; some of us have even surrendered to its embrace. Leagues of writers are familiar with futility, all of our attempts and battles producing such little to no reward we might as well have been spinning our pencils on air.
This Super Bowl game bears lessons to any writer who thinks they have reached their outmost limits, who have begun to lose hope in their ability to achieve their end-goals, who have looked at the futile odds and uttered “Game’s over.”
The Patriots aren’t superheroes or magicians. They’re regular guys who have had their fair share of injuries, losing seasons, and ugly performances on the field. They’ve even dealt with scandals. But they figured out how to get past the seemingly insurmountable obstacle known as the Falcons because this is their job, this is what they do for a living, they’ve worked for this moment, through practice, practice, practice.
In a writer’s world, working hard means writing on a regular basis; writing when you don’t want to, accepting constructive criticism, setting goals to grow, learn, and thrive by. Working hard means write, write, write.
I watched Tom Brady’s face (which is decidedly NOT a huge feat) over the course of those first 3 quarters, and he looked worried, a bit disbelieving. His feet got a little happy and he wasn’t always his calm, cool Bradyliciousness.
However, something finally clicked with him, and I can only describe it as focus. He knew what he had to do—even if that job seemed impossible. He assessed where his team was going wrong, rerouted them, and guided them back on course.
The story of Super Bowl LI might have looked written in stone at halftime, but the funny thing about football is that no one can predict which plays, which choices, which acts can upend the foretelling. And the same is true with writing.
Writers, focus is the kind of tool you have complete control over, even when everything else around you is falling apart. Hone it, shape it to your specific needs, and it will keep you in the game as long as your heart is in it.
“I knew I had a good feel on it,” WR Julian Edelman said. “I didn’t know if a piece of the ball was touching. I don’t know what the dang rule is. No one knows what the rule is. I am pretty sure I caught it.”
Edelman had one job to do in that specific moment—catch the darn ball. If he’d gotten caught up in the “rules” or worried if he was screwing up the play, he probably wouldn’t have gotten the job done.
I hear so often from writers who complain about having no time, no support, no inspiration—and so they don’t do their job, which is to write. When it comes down to it, writers have to write if they want to complete projects. Football players have to catch the ball if they want to win the game. All the other noise is just that—noise. Write the story you need to write, feed that burning desire within you—and worry about how pretty it is later.
WORD BY WORD.
If I were a betting gal, I’d say that Brady et al had a play-by-play vision that helped get them to their end-goal. Once they got through one play, they focused on the next play and only the next play.
Tackling your writing career word by word is all you can do sometimes. If you look at all the things you have to accomplish, at all the steps you have to take, you will psych yourself out. Not only that, but you never know which choice could become a turning point, which has been said about Edelman’s ground-grazing catch.
The game’s not over till it’s over. You’re a writer till you stop writing. Write one word, then the next. Worry about the end-goal when you reach the end-goal.
All of the above should not detract from the Falcons’ skill or their performance. They played a hell of a game, wore Brady to the bone, and controlled that field with such confidence that many Patriots fans abandoned their TVs and went to bed.
The Falcons made it to the Super Bowl due to hard work and focus, to name a couple of necessary qualifications. But only one team can win a football game and sometimes it comes down to who wants it more, who puts in that extra drive, who doesn’t mentally misfire. Sometimes it comes down to the guy who believes in himself just an nth of a degree more than the other guy.
White-knuckled belief can edge a writer over any obstacle or fear. There will be rotten days that threaten to suck the life out of you, when you’re down from multiple rejections or negative reviews or flailing projects. To rise, you must believe. Genuine, soul-deep belief will carry you across miles of words.
Did you watch the Super Bowl? Did you eat pizza? What do you think helped the Patriots make the most amazing comeback ever in Super Bowl history?
Have a writerly day!!