Maybe it was as simple as sunlight deficiency during the winter months, but I was on the verge of quitting tennis after a few disastrous performances earlier this year. “Performances” – that’s the key word. As if a bunch of people were watching me play a ladies match that counted for nothing, that would not be recorded in the USTA’s computers or anywhere else. I had let tennis become all about me and how I was doing, whether I was playing well and what others would think of my abilities. Narcissism was killing my game, and it was certainly killing the fun others might receive from including me in their games.
Not surprisingly, I also couldn’t get going with my writing projects. I had nothing worthwhile to say. I’d type out a few sentences, then backspace over them to delete most of what I’d written. My feelings were similar to those I experienced on the tennis court. I feared my writer friends might judge me as eddying, stuck in the same essay — while at the same time they were progressing from one chapter to the next in their books.
So something had to change. Fortunately the days got longer, which for me seems to make a big difference. Don’t forget the iPhone weather app icon, 73 degrees and sunny, was created in Northern California. But I also decided that, if I couldn’t enjoy tennis and writing, I would have to find other activities. After all, no one was forcing me to do these things – they were luxuries I supposedly chose to pursue.
So I made two big changes. In tennis, I started to focus on singles. At first I did this because I figured other people were getting sick of partnering with me, but then I started to like it. It was simple: just me, my opponent and the ball. I could concentrate better, I didn’t need to worry about interpersonal dynamics on my court, and I didn’t need to stress about letting my partner down if I missed a shot. Perhaps it’s the ultimate expression of narcissism, in that singles means every ball is mine, but I’m no longer worried about my performance. I’m just playing the game.
In writing, I started to check into things I thought would be fun. It’s a subtle change, but while I had enrolled in a creative writing program with the goal of writing a non-fiction book because that’s what the syllabus said I was supposed to do, now I’m thinking about heading in a different direction. What I like is the intersection of writing, social media, podcasting, video and the interaction with readers – in other words, forming an online community. There’s so much to learn here, and that’s why I enjoy it.
So I’m augmenting my traditional writing classes with others on internet publishing in all its forms. I hope to change my blog posts to be shorter but more frequent, and to add podcasts in the future. So stay tuned. It’s a new game.