Working toward a common goal. Performing in front of a huge audience. Sharing success. Writing is more like sport than you might think.
Pulling off a pinpoint pass or taking down an opponent in record time. Hurtling down the mountain or across the pitch in the blink of an eye. These superhuman feats are why we tune in to our favourite sporting events – from the Winter Olympics to every pulse-pounding minute of your favourite footy match.
And while you can surely appreciate the incredible performances on your TV screen, you might not realise that those athletes have quite a bit in common with the humble writer. OK, so their physiques might look a tad different. But in both sport and writing, producing at the highest levels is anything but a solo act.
Here are three ways writing is just like team sport.
Elite athletes don’t pack their own gear or make their own travel plans. Similarly, writers often rely on the personal and organisational skills of their client services superstars to make sure they know what to do and when and where to do it. Chances are you wouldn’t even know the game was being played without this person doing all their masterful work behind the scenes.
Of course, every team needs a trusted leader, their very own Ted Lasso. Somebody to lead by example – the one they can turn to for inspiration when things get a bit hairy. For writers, this is a senior team member or mentor who takes on the biggest, chunkiest, most complicated projects while also having an uncanny ability to put everybody else in the best possible position to succeed.
Like a well-oiled championship team, each member of a writing squad brings his or her own skills. For sporting teams, it might be an expert defender who takes out the opposition’s top scoring option, or a masterful tactician who can see the quickest route to success. Behind the keyboard, it can be a scribe who can marry interview and research to craft the most compelling narrative, or a writer with a penchant for coming up with that attention-grabbing headline. Or an editor that turns good copy in amazing work. The best teams on the field and at the desk rely on finding the right mix.
Whether working on the pitch or the page, every team relies on an occasional injection of new blood. While the professional lifespan of a writer is much longer than that of a top-flight athlete, it’s still important to respect the invigorating impact of fresh faces, ideas and skills. With youth comes different perspectives and cutting-edge skillsets that can supplement the abilities and wisdom of the crafty vets.
Rarely in sport does one player do it all – or not for very long anyway. Sporting success is built on teamwork – passing, coaching and other communication that puts people in the best position to succeed.
The same goes for writers. Whether it’s stepping in for each other due to scheduling clashes, providing some much-needed cover in the form of a review or bouncing ideas around to crack a tough brief, collaboration is vital to making writing magic happen.
For most athletes and teams, the goal is simple: to win. Whether that’s standing atop a podium with a gold medal draped around the neck, earning the flag or lifting the cup, it’s the unifying purpose that drives everybody to work harder – together.
The best writing teams have a similar purpose that drives them. And usually, it’s to craft copy that is engaging, speaks the audience’s language and not only delivers on the brief, but exceeds expectations – building connections and successful partnerships that will stand the test of time.
Most writers aren’t going to be able to fly down a mountain quicker than a downhill skier or outmuscle a towering opponent for the ball. But they do know how to make writing a team sport – for the better of everybody involved.
OK, now where’s my gold medal?
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