Growing up in a family of athletes and coaches, I don’t know how it was possible for me not to love organized sports. But I do not.
Sunday afternoons as a kid meant enduring hours of sports on TV. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football. It didn’t matter the season. There was always some kind of game being played somewhere.
While I watch infrequently as an adult, I cheer for my home team, the Carolina Panthers, whenever I tune in. Can't tell you who's playing what or where, but I’m drawn to the Panther’s mantra, a quote from a beloved colleague who battled cancer -- Keep pounding.
Stirred by the Panthers’ quest to be the best, I found five pieces of advice from the world of football to inspire authors to produce their best, too, and keep pounding the keyboard.
1. The Road is Bumpy
It’s football season; anything can happen.
― Troy Brown, Former professional American football player
You’re a writer, so anything and everything will happen. Whether you’re searching for an agent, going the Indie route, or fighting tech gremlins that want to eat your manuscript, writing is fraught with literary curves and technology potholes.
Some of my most creative outputs came from finding work-arounds to problems that blind-sided me. Keep the pitfalls in stride, and author onward.
2. Celebrate Small Wins
It’s the journey; not the destination.
― Tony Dungy, former professional American football player and coach
Because writing is a long game (see #5), you gotta value every victory. I’ve wanted to quit more times than I care to remember since I started writing full time in 2013. Writing can be a lonely and discouraging path.
But I was lifted up in 2019. After six years of authoring, my chapter book, Sweet T and the Turtle Team, won three international awards for best writing in children's literature. Plus, it was considered by a major Hollywood film studio for adaptation to movies or TV.
I’m also jazzed when celebrating others’ successes, especially seeing hard-working creatives soar. There’s something joyful about sharing good news and stepping into that circle of gladness. Your endorphins do the happy dance.
And so, we keep plugging along together.
3. Take Care of YOU
It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.
― Lou Holtz, Former college football coach, Inductee in the College Football Hall of Fame
Like football, writing is an all-consuming passion. At first, I worked at it for 10-hour days, seven days a week — a sure formula for disaster. I learned to pace myself, even unplugging for a few days or (gasp!) weeks at a time to refresh my computer and my soul.
Give that elusive chapter or frustrating book formatting a rest. Walk around the block, hug a puppy, or text a friend. And if you find yourself near burnout, allow yourself an off-season: take a few weeks or months away. Find whatever you need to reset, and then get back to the game. Guarantee the task will be there when you’re ready to tackle it.
4. Find People, Projects to Nourish the Soul
Always have four things in life: Something to do. Someone to love. Something to hope for. Something to believe in.
– Lou Holtz, Former American college football coach, Inductee in the College Football Hall of Fame
Connecting with family, friends, neighbors, and community feeds the soul. Plus, you get to be with people instead of staying inside your head, pounding alone at the keyboard. It’s amazing how much more I accomplish after time with friends.
I’m energized tackling other creative outlets, like photography and garden design. Besides being fun, I love seeing their immediate results instead of waiting forever on writerly matters like publishing a book.
More than being productive, research results demonstrate that people with active social connections are healthier and live longer. These connections are especially important if you’re an introvert as many authors are. So, get out there and mingle!
5. It’s a Long Game
Don’t give up at half time. Concentrate on winning the second half.
― Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, former American college football player and coach
Experts counsel it takes several years and publishing as many books to make it as an author. This fact of writing life drives me crazy.
I am impatient.
I want success n*o*w. Sigh.
I try to pace myself and enjoy the loonnnng writing ride. Truth be told, there are days I want to scream and tear out my hair. But I turn the crawl into a game and find something to laugh about.
Don’t be upset if you don’t see the results you want, especially as you begin your writing journey. Expect and accept: the going is slow. It will keep you in the game!
This is the fourth winter Hub and I stopped at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia during the grueling trek from North Carolina to visit family in cold-weather country. Our tradition started by accident. Or, rather, to avoid accident as a much-needed break from the 500-mile drive through evil I-95 traffic.
But our stay has evolved into a much anticipated two days of history, nature, hiking and CANDY! Lace up your walking shoes, find your mittens, and join me on a winter photo walk to see for yourself.
Our first year at Harpers Ferry, we immersed ourselves in the park’s history. It centered on abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 bloody evening raid on the arsenal located in Lower Town. Brown's actions escalated pre-Civil War tensions between the North and South. He was captured, tried, and hanged outside the courthouse in nearby Charles Town.
Photos: Harpers Ferry/NHP
Pass by the church,
the steep incline
for just a few more yards
until you reach
This natural structure, reinforced by four stone pillars in the mid-1800s, is a large mass of Harpers shale, with each piece of shale slabbed on top of another. It’s named after Thomas Jefferson, who commented on the remarkable view when he reached the outcrop in 1783.
Pinky promise: Jefferson Rock overlooking the Shenandoah River as it flows into the Potomac at the tip of Harpers Ferry is worth the climb.
Heading down from Jefferson Rock is a snap, but don’t zip by the fieldstone ruins of St. John’s Episcopal church that you were too tired to see on the trek up. Built in 1852, the church was also used as a hospital and barracks during the US Civil War in the mid-1860s.
There’s more eye candy ahead as you catch the Potomac River churning alongside Lower Town.
Speaking of candy ...
Of the many enchanting restored buildings, restaurants, and shops ringing Harpers Ferry's High Street, we always stop at True Treats Historic Candy. The store is easy to miss, so follow me down an indistinguishable set of wooden steps into an unremarkable old building. Then open the creaking door and step inside to be gobsmacked by a sweet tooth chronicle from biblical times though the 20th century.
True Treats is more than a written record. It offers freshly made, hard-to-find CANDY to purchase, taste, and rave about!
Be ready for olfactory memories to jump out at every display to whisk you away to a happy place.
For instance, we buy black licorice pipes for Hub’s mother because she enjoyed them as a kid. You may stumble on tasties like those Grandma kept, and you'll feel like a youngster, who’s back in her kitchen, dipping into her candy dish once again.
To walk off those sweet treats, let’s hike the historic C&O canal path along the Potomac River. This towpath was originally built in the 19th century for mules to walk beside the now-drained canal as the animals “towed" canal boats through the waterway.
Hey, you can even brag that you walked the Appalachian Trail because the C&O shares this flat stretch of the App Trail!
Normally, we’d reach the C&O path after crossing the Potomac via the pedestrian bridge attached to the exterior of a busy railroad trestle..
But not this year.
However, the day before Hub and I visited, seven cars of a CSX freight train derailed over that Harpers Ferry railroad bridge, and two cars spilled into the Potomac.
Fortunately, no one was injured, and since the cars were empty, no hazardous materials were involved, either.
By the time Hub and I arrive in Harpers Ferry 24 hours later, equipment and personnel from CSX and the National Park Service had already pulled the cars from the river, towed the freight train away, and closed adjacent structures in order repair the bridge and keep visitors at a safe distance.
While we miss our walk--and feel for true Appalachian Trail warriors, who now must arrange for transportation across the river to continue their trek--Hub and I are grateful the accident was not worse.
The sun is waning.
It’s time to catch the bus back to the visitors’ center
call it a day.
for your company
on my winter photo walk -:D.
If you’ve been to Harpers Ferry, what was your experience like in this place? What favorite historic site or hiking spot do you enjoy? Please share your thoughts in the comment section. Let's explore new places together!
Photos by Cat Michaels except where noted
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