The steamy days and cool nights of August whisper that football is coming. Practice fields echo with the rumble of young men wearing cleats, helmets and shoulder pads as they struggle through two-a-days and learn new play routes. Newspapers devote a significant amount of daily sports coverage to the antics of players, on and off the field. August stretches closer to September. Suddenly it’s game time. Then the choosing starts.
Each contest begins with a coin toss. Heads or tails. Kick or receive. With the wind or against it. A coach or a quarterback orders up a play and the seesaw battle for success erupts. The simple act of choosing a run or a pass may lead to victory or defeat. This game of football is all about choice. So is writing. So is life.
Writers, accept the handoff. Spy an opening. Head downfield. This passion for shaping words into meaning compels us, like a fire in the blood, a curse, an undeniable need. Gearing up for my battle with story, I decide on the game plan, select the narrator, the plot, the setting, the pace. My opponent is the fuzzy creative, that stew pot of voices clamoring to be shaped into coherence. Each sentence becomes a choice. Each paragraph demands a direction. Often the end line is unclear. Going ten yards is a slog through any number of linemen just waiting to stop my progress: time, family commitments, health worries, jobs, time. On the football field, a sack, an interception, a score by the opposing team can end your game. In writing, all those obstacles do is send me back to the huddle. Time to come up with a new plan. I’m always in the act of decision.
Life presents us with the same metaphor. More unexpected moments that threaten to derail the choices we have made, propel us on a different course. If football is not the metaphor for all, perhaps Bob Seger’s country/bluesy angst will do: we are ever moving forward and “running against the wind.” If we stop, resistance builds. If we fade into old memories, live too much on past hurts or regret, we miss the moment, lose the momentum, let the other ‘team’ take charge.
Every moment offers us a choice: to be fully present. Each of us is the quarterback for our own writing, our own life. We have the responsibility to read the play, adapt, adjust, try an end run or power our way up the middle. Keep moving. Keep the pen or the cursor skipping across the page. Keep our legs and our hearts pumping against the turbulence that life sends our way. Do not allow fear – of failure, of death – to stop our progress. If life tosses you a football, tuck it close to your heart and run with it.
P.S. For those who sent positive thoughts re my brain surgery, all went well and recovery is underway. Thank you.