Healthy Competition?

I recently added a 6 AM cycle class to my workout schedule. Wow! Has it shaken up my routine? Oh yeah. Just this one morning of waking up just a little earlier and rushing out the door instead of shuffling about in my bathrobe drinking coffee and playing Scrabble online is making all the difference for me creatively.
At first, I was put off a bit by the instructor who teaches this cycle class. His tendency not to enunciate clearly annoyed me. He’s grown on me though and just like the Russian Anthropology professor I had in college, I’m coming to understand his language. What I like about him is that he uses tons of imagery cues. He takes us on rides through the Sahara, downtown Olympia, up and around snowy mountains. He must love poetry, I think, because how else could he so shamelessly tell us—at the end of our workout today—that we were tulips and that the sweat running down our arms was dew on bright petals.
When I walked in to class this morning, the instructor, Steve, had all the bikes circled and facing the windows where the sun would rise. The music choice throughout the hour long class included such hits as Genesis “Land of Confusion” and Aerosmith and Run DMC singing “Walk this Way”. Can you imagine that? It was awesome. At one point, I laughed out loud. I think it was when Steven Tyler first interjected, screaming, “walk this way”.
Now here I am coming to the point. Steve did something different today. He numbered us of into two groups—1s and 2s—and encouraged throughout the workout some healthy competition between the two groups as we sprinted and climbed. This made me think about writing and all the ways that competition keeps me productive and motivated and all the ways that it cripples my work. So what is it that people mean when they talk about “healthy competition”? Here’s what I think:
1. Competition must help ALL participants. Checking in with your writing mates from time to time to make sure that word count challenges, contests, and other competitive motivators that you are using in your writing practice are working for everyone and are working for YOU. If not, do something differently.
2. Competition is like the gooiest chocolate brownies. A square here and there keeps nurtures us. Too much throws us off balance. We lose sight of the big picture—the one story that compels us to write.
3. It’s all an illusion. Ever seen the Matrix? Competitions designed to get you writing are elaborate hoaxes that participants agree to perpetuate for the mutual benefit of all. What does this mean? Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t throw your hands in the air and bemoan your failure. Mark little strides and small accomplishments and celebrate them. The only person you are really in competition with is yourself. The rest is just a game.
How can you use a little competition to get your pen moving?


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