I’m a competitive person. When I was in high school, I participated in sports at a mediocre level. I was the same age as several who were obviously, effortlessly better than me. We’d race, they’d win. I’d have the perfect set up for a volleyball kill, and they’d be there to block me. It might not be a coincidence that this was the time I learned how to swear.
With my competitive nature, I also inherited a very strong work ethic, and though I was OFTEN down, I wasn’t out. I worked through wonky knees, shin splints and stress fractures determined to at least keep up with the strong athletes around me. And my senior year, my volleyball team awarded me with Most Improved Player.
The funny thing about life lessons, though, is it seems like we have to learn the same ones over and over. So far, I’ve relearned this lesson in band, pageants, piano as well as in the capacities of waitress, teacher and mom. Yet it somehow surprised me when it showed up in writing.
I’m surrounded by strong writers whose careers are more advanced than my own. They are talking submissions and editors, agents and contracts, while I’m slowly plotting away at a story I’ve restarted more often than I care to count. Instead of being a lanky teenager who trips over her own feet, I’m dealing with characters who shrug, laugh, smile and nod WAY TOO MUCH and sentences that don’t flow on the screen like they do in my head.
But remember – I’m competitive. It’s not that I want to be better than those around me, but I do want to rise to their level. My ability to judge lets me see where I’m deficient. I can see that I’m not where I want to be because the quality around me so clearly manifests what this writing experience could look like. Instead of running ladders, practicing approaches, and hitting a volleyball against the side of my house hundreds of times, I’m writing and researching, studying and revising.
The tricky thing about any pursuit, though, is there are going to be periods of frustration (see swearing). Once upon a time, I tried to push that frustration away, tried to pretend it didn’t exist, but it does. As I get a little older, I become more and more convinced that frustration is okay – good even. That emotional response means what I am working on means something to me.
It means I care.
It’s been said time and again that this writing gig isn’t for pansies (not that many things in life are). But chances are, if you are reading this, it’s something that has gotten into you, aligned itself next to your soul, marked its beat with that of your heart.
Let it stay there, beckoning you to find your best, and then challenge you to be even better.
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is an editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.