One of my extracurricular activities when I was in high school was Track. To be honest, I didn’t actually arrive there willingly. Our schools Football coach felt it should be a requirement that all of his players run Track in the spring if you wanted to play for him in the fall. I don’t know if there was some kind of collusion going on between him and the track coach, or he just wanted his players to stay active during the offseason, or he got his giggles by seeing three hundred pound linebackers wearing those flimsy track shorts, but whatever the reason -- there I was. Fleetness of foot wasn’t part of my DNA makeup back then (or has it ever been), so I tended to gravitate towards the longer distances…the two mile becoming my specialty. But there was another event that I was inexplicably drawn to, one that made absolutely no sense and the idea of me doing it was like a Chihuahua trying to make out with a Great Dane. The activity…High Jump.
My first year in track, my junior year, I was only 5’6” tall (I’ve only grown 3 inches since). Because of my height I knew I wasn’t going to win any medals, but we were required to participate in at least one running event and one field event, and the high jump really intrigued me. And what interested me the most was watching the other kids experiment with this new style of jumping called the Fosbury Flop.
Dick Fosbury had brought fame to his new style of high-jumping just five years before then at the 1968 Summer Olympics and now jumpers all over the world were trying to emulate his technique…including myself.
What does any of this have to do with writing? Bear with me.
What’s interesting to note was that Dick Fosbury first started experimenting with a new high jumping technique at age 16, while attending high school in Medford, Oregon, but it wasn’t until his senior year in high school that he had perfected it enough to yield measurable improvements. His early efforts were nowhere near as coordinated as a well-performed straddle method jump, and one historian referred to Fosbury's early attempts as an 'airborne seizure', but during the latter part of his sophomore year and the beginning of his junior year, it began to produce results, and he gradually was able to clear higher jumps. Fosbury continued to refine his technique into college and ultimately had its coming out in the Olympics. The technique gained the name the "Fosbury Flop" after a reporter for a Medford newspaper wrote that he looked like a, "fish flopping in a boat", but it could also be argued that Fosbury’s early efforts were just that…a flop. But determination and perseverance proved otherwise.
You see my point now, don’t you? How many times have we been told that -- there aren’t any new stories, just new ways to tell them? Dick Fosbury found a new way to jump, but it didn’t happen overnight and required A LOT of experimentation before he got there. We are all searching for new ways to tell stories…with a fresh voice…but we have to be both patient and persistent.
My best jump in high school reached 5’6”, earning me 3rd place in one meet and much needed points for my team. I consider that one of the greatest physical achievements of my life. I flopped…and that was a good thing. As far as my writing goes, I am an evolving work in progress striving to perfect my technique and yield measurable results. I hope one day soon to flop again…and that will be a good thing as well. :)
In case you hadn't heard the news yet, this week we added Diane Dalton, Managing Editor of Rhemalda Publishing as one our final round judges for WRiTE CLUB. There are only two weeks left to send in submissions, so please help spread the word.