How the 2013 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament Helped Me Dramatically Improve My Attitude Towards Writing

I’m a huge college basketball fan. Every March (and early April), I’m glued to my television set to try to catch as much of March Madness as possible. It’s my favorite sporting event.

March Madness is always a lot of fun, yet I never expected that the tourney could ever teach me anything that would help me out as a writer (If you can figure out a way that understanding how to properly space yourself in a zone defense would be of use to a writer, please comment below; I’d love to be enlightened!)

Every year, I look forward to seeing which team will come out of nowhere to be the Cinderella of the tournament. I always find it compelling when a mid-major school knocks off the “heavyweights” of college basketball. But again, none of the myriad of teams that have acted in that role since I’ve been a fan have ever taught me anything that would benefit me as a writer. That is, until 2013’s tournament…

In 2013’s tournament, Florida Gulf Coast University knocked off Georgetown and San Diego State, two elite programs. I had never heard of Florida Gulf Coast University (the school or its basketball team). I didn’t know any of the players. I didn’t know the coach. They were complete unknowns.

As I watched FGCU’s basketball team that March, though it may sound strange, I immediately felt that it was as if I were meant to watch it by some weird trick of the universe. I knew that I was supposed to see this because I needed to see exactly how to get anything done (including getting your creative writing published)—YOU HAVE TO STAY LOOSE AND HAVE FUN.

The players on FGCU’s basketball team were too loose and having too much fun to worry about how the odds were completely against them. Yes, the odds of your work getting published in top journals are slim. Yes, the odds of you getting a publishing contract are slim. Yes, the odds of your name being mentioned among the literati are slim. Yes, the odds of your book selling in vast numbers are slim. There are undoubtedly many writers just as hungry as you are, writing just as much as you are, who are as skilled as you are and are waiting to claim it. All these statements are true.

However, if you really want to be a writer, counterintuitive as it sounds, you have to put facts out of the equation. This is certainly not an insult to the men on the FGCU basketball team, but from the way they played, it was almost as if they were ignorant of the reality of their situation. If they were aware of the reality of their chances, they would have been easily whipped by Georgetown and sent scurrying home to Lee County because they would have already been defeated in their minds. Aware or not, they put it outside of their minds, stayed loose, had fun, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen, allowing America the opportunity to fall in love with their team.

The odds are against you. However, the odds only can be taken into account if you pay attention to them. If you really want to be a writer, in the words of James Chance, “Why don’t you try being stupid instead of smart?” Why not really believe that you can do the impossible? That’s the only way that you can!

Did you ever learn a valuable lesson about writing (or anything else) from an unexpected source? I’d love to hear your story. Please feel free to comment below.


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