By Atos, Flickr Creative Commons

By Atos, Flickr Creative Commons

Our guest today is Marybeth Whalen, author of five novels. The newest one The Bridge Tender releases this month and brings readers back to Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Marybeth is the cofounder of the popular site, She Reads.

I am passionate about the craft of writing and encouraging other writers in that craft.

She and her husband Curt have been married for twenty-two years and are the parents of six children—ranging in age from college to elementary school. She spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words—and is always at work on her next novel. She is passionate about the craft of writing and encouraging other writers in that craft.

You can connect with Marybeth on Facebook and Twitter.

Stroke Clinic

Two of my children have been involved in year-round swim league this year, and it’s been quite the education for them—and for their newbie parents. As the year is winding up, we’re finally understanding some of the terms and conditions that come with year-round swim. Competitive and demanding, this isn’t a league for the faint of heart (parent or child). And nothing represents this better than the final meet of the regular season: the big one—the meet all the kids work hard to qualify for. So when the results of that meet come back, you better believe everyone wants to see where they fell in the rankings.

Since neither of my two swam in this big meet, I read the results with no personal stake, more for the educational value, a commentary on the state of the team, still learning how all this works. I scanned the names, noting the ones that came up more than once, the ones I’d come to know as the heavy hitters, the big kahunas, consistently bringing home wins all season long. These were the kids to watch.

TheBridgeTender high resOne week later, a missive went out about a stroke clinic which takes place during the team’s two week spring break. No practice! Bliss! But if you were struggling and wanted extra help, these clinics would be provided. A flurry of emails followed. I pictured weeping and gnashing of teeth in homes all over our suburban corner of the world as kids who thought they were getting a break found out that, no, they were going to stroke clinic instead!

When the list of names of who got a spot in stroke clinic came out, I scanned it, looking to see if my son got the spot he wanted… and finding a surprise as I did. Guess whose names I found on the stroke clinic list? The finalists from the big meet! Column after column, the names matched up. I closed the email and walked around pondering this for the rest of the day.

I’m still pondering it, in fact. Because those kids—those “best of” names—reminded me of something. The best? They get to be the best for a reason. They don’t take breaks. They never stop working to be better. They push themselves and they always know there’s something they could do better. Instead of pointing at their current rankings, they are focusing on the rankings that have not come out yet. They see an opportunity to get better…and they seize on it.

It would’ve made more sense to me if the stroke clinic list was a list of all the kids who didn’t make the cut in the big state meet. They weren’t good enough, so they want to get better. But something tells me those kids aren’t ever going to be on any lists. They’re there to pass the time, to play around, maybe to get their parents off their backs. They’re not there to win. The ones who are there to win are the ones who are there to work… and work hard.

You guys are writers so you understand the message in this little illustration without me belaboring it. You can make your own applications. I know I learned something valuable from those young swimmers, a lesson I will keep in mind for a long time to come. When I’m tempted to slack off, two words are going to come to my mind: stroke clinic. There is always work to be done, always the chance—and the choice—to get better.

Are there times you’ve gotten writing inspiration from unexpected places? Please share your encouragement with us—we’d love to hear your own “stroke clinic” experiences.