Have An Average Writing Day

September 4, 2019 § 16 Comments


Gwen, Nancy and Gwen’s son Stanley

by Nancy Jorgensen

My daughter Gwen is on the start line, leaning, left foot forward toward the waters of Copacabana Beach. She has devoted every day of the last four years to the next two hours. It is 90 degrees Fahrenheit and windy, and she intends to win this Rio 2016 Olympic triathlon race.

My other daughter, Elizabeth, and I spy Gwen’s husband Patrick. “How is she? How are you?”

Patrick tucks back his wavy hair, calm, confident, composed. “She’s great. We’re feeling good. All she has to do is have an average day.”

I knew what he meant. Gwen didn’t wish for ideal weather, optimal race tactics, or a once-in-a lifetime race. She prepared for choppy water, a competitor’s breakaway, and dangerous descents. Every day, she practiced the required skills. She only had to replicate those today.

Gwen may have been born with the physical characteristics and mental discipline of an athlete but she believes success is not found in talent or a single standout day. Success results from consistency: weekly, daily, hourly deliberation. From habits: workouts, nutrition, recovery. From collaboration: with coaches, therapists, teammates.

In the London 2012 triathlon, Gwen punctured her tire and finished 38th. She didn’t quit. She decided to win gold in Rio. To accomplish that, she adopted the attitude of “average everyday”— incremental daily progress, converting good practices into habits that achieve best outcomes.

I try to write the same way. With consistency every week, even when I’m busy or tired or traveling. Every morning, from eight to eleven. Every hour, resisting the pull of emails, Facebook and Twitter.

I try to convert practice into habit. With workouts of five hundred words a day and submissions each week. With reading fiction and nonfiction, reading harder, reading diverse voices. With recovery on the StairMaster, walks in the park, and friend and family time.

Gwen surrounds herself with coaches and staff who make her better. My own coaches are a writers’ workshop, online blogs, and websites. My therapists are a husband, supportive friends and encouraging family members. My teammates are a partner to edit my work, workshop classmates to discover my best and worst, and a writing coach to steer me toward markets.

In Rio, Gwen swam with the current, rode with the front pack, ran side by side against the defending Olympic champion—and won Olympic gold. We celebrated with her in Rio, celebrated again at home and celebrate now. I still can’t believe I am the mother of an Olympic gold medalist.

After Rio, Gwen birthed a baby, transitioned to marathon, and had surgery for Haglund’s deformity—three new challenges she approaches with the same discipline. With patience for her body, trust in the processes and a belief that hard work is not sacrifice but investment.

Again, I use her example. To be patient when rejections outnumber acceptances. To trust that writing, editing and submitting will lead to best results. To decide that the hours each day are not a sacrifice but an investment.

So far, I have published a few books and several essays. My words don’t represent the best on the planet like an Olympic win, but I still celebrate. And then I go back to work.

Elizabeth, who is my writing partner, asked for an edit this week. I sent corrections, we conferred and she prepared her submission. “Any other advice?” she said.

“Yes. Have an average day.”

Nancy Jorgensen is a musician and writer. Go, Gwen, Go, her 2019 memoir of daughter Gwen Jorgensen’s journey from CPA to 2016 Olympic Champion, is published by Meyer & Meyer Sport. Her choral education books are published by Hal Leonard Corporation and Lorenz Corporation.

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