While watching the death throes of the Murray vs Nadal tennis match yesterday I was left wondering about the former’s will to win. Both men are professional athletes, roughly the same age – they even trained together as chiddlers. Both are successful (or at least in pure cash terms both have won more than £1m in prize money), have impressive biceps and are blessed with a fair degree of natural talent. Yet there was only going to be one winner out there. The desire of one player seemed to crush the other almost before they stepped on the court. It’s not all that separates them, obviously, but it looked like it was a large part.
I can play a bit of tennis. But I’ve never practised for hours. Or worn a bandana. Or curtseyed to Princess Michael of Kent (not exactly a perk of the job). I simply don’t think I’ve ever wanted to _win_. Not in the way that Nadal does. I like to beat people, but these are usually specific people. I don’t play to win. I play to enjoy myself. Ultimately, this has meant that I have never trained in the way that he / Murray do or made the sacrifices that they have. Or benefit from the rewards.
Which led to me thinking about my ‘malaise’ in general. As mentioned passim, an old English teacher has creative writing as down to three things – time and talent and tenacity? Do I really lack any of these? Or is it something simpler, more basic? Do I want to be creative? In the ‘winning things’ way – whether that’s a contract or a prize or whatever? Or do I simply want to play the odd knock-up game of serve-and-verb and not bother the scorers at the end of the day? And if not, why not?
I spend a lot of my working life using the phrase ‘the thing that really frustrates me is….’. And for all the window dressing in the world, it’s ultimately ‘me’. I have no reason to be doing what I’m doing. I have no reason to be saying ‘the thing that really frustrates me is….’. I have choices, thankfully. And the most obvious would be to use my linguistic dexterity for some nobler purpose than to amuse people on social networks with just how many units it can take to touch-type.
I’m a project-based professional. I’m a project-based person. I have the tenacity (not quite as good as He-Man, but I’m working on it). I’m perfectly capable of being a stubborn and contrary so-and-so until the project is finished (or more frequently until the finish line is in sight and then I lose interest). What I struggle to do, particularly in my creative work, is to build on these projects towards a bigger goal. (Whereas Nadal can evidently both focus on the milestones in a tournament (the individual matches) together with the overall ‘project’ of becoming #1 in the world. And Murray is perhaps better at the individual. )
I wonder how I can turn getting the novels out of my head into something like a series of manageable chunks, particularly when my ‘natural’ tendency is to introduce complexity, not reduce it. (Obviously my biggest natural tendency is to find ever-more-convoluted ways to whine about not writing, while in some form of tragic irony, writing).
Even my attempt to write a series of short stories has been sabotaged by my ‘natural’ desire to (a) cluster them around a theme; (b) share characters across stories and (c) put them into the Monk Quixote universe. But still, if you can’t stand around on the tube self-consciously attempting to not write like a dyslexic chimp in shiny purple ink in a very old moleskine.
Sigh. Anyhoo, long self-indulgent post (aren’t they all) pondering on how to get those word counts moving. No-one else will write this for me. And even if they did, it’s not the point.
Slowly, something stirs in the forest. Let us see whether it is an ant or a bear.