Friday, October 2, 2009

Jumping Into the Fray

A few weeks ago, I completed one leg of the Trek Triathlon in Long Island, New York. I was the cyclist on a relay team with two friends who were sponsored by Team Survivor, a terrific organization that promotes exercise opportunities for women affected by cancer. We called our squad the Reluctant Racers to commemorate the lunch where we discussed whether we should take part in the event. There was a lot of hemming and hawing until one of us finally said, “I’ll do it if you will” and the others (reluctantly) agreed.

I was thinking back on that race today, remembering the adrenaline rush as I pushed through the four laps of the nine-mile cycling course. I have written several books about other people’s sports achievements, but it’s rare that I’m the one who’s doing the achieving. Four years ago I competed in my first triathlon, doing it all: swimming, cycling, and running. But other than that, I’ve spent the last 35 years or so comfortably watching sports from a spectator’s seat.

I’m not sure if my fellow I.N.K. bloggers will agree, but for me, being an observer is an occupational hazard. I watch, read, listen, and ask questions to gather the information I need to tell the stories of people who do something memorable or significant. I know that writing a book is in itself significant, but my natural inclination, whether learned or developed, is to be a witness. Years ago, I was taught that reporters are not supposed to become part of their stories, and nonfiction authors are basically reporters. To this day, I am more likely to take in a situation than to actively participate in it.

While I don’t want to lose my power of observation, I’ve been thinking lately that jumping into the fray is not such a bad thing. After all, having a variety of different life experiences can only make my writing more vivid and authentic. So I’m trying to participate more. Last Friday night, I actually got up on stage in a bar in Milwaukee and joined some friends singing karaoke. That was definitely a first! (Fortunately, our lead singer was a bona fide professional and the rest of us stayed far in the background.) In consideration of the listening public, though, I’ll concentrate my future efforts in areas where I’m slightly more skilled. For starters, I’m marking my calendar for the next Trek Triathlon in New York, on September 12, 2010. And this time as I approach the starting line, I won’t be reluctant at all.

1 comment:

Karen Romano Young said...

Courage, Ms. Macy! Don't you find that stretching this way helps you in your writing, not just by having a better understanding of what athletes go through, but in being able to pace yourself in your work? Good luck! I'll be cheering you on (from the sidelines. See, I have trouble with my joints...)