I love the movie, Talledega Nights, and I can quote pretty much every line. Especially the dinner scene ’cause I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-shirt. As a two-time boy mom with a cynical sense of humor that has me laughing at fart jokes, it’s hard not to love that movie. And, of course, one of my favorite lines is the oh-so-dark …
… said to Ricky Bobby by his father at a young age.
And I will admit that this mentality does come out in me when waiting at the entrance at an amusement park with everyone itching to rush to the headlining roller coaster. Thankfully, there are also plenty of times when I turn off my competitive spirit.
Take, for example, my pre-Bob duckpin days of the early ’90s.
Back then, I had a summer tradition with my best friend, Tina, of joining a duckpin bowling league. Was either of us great bowlers? Absolutely not. We sucked … but we sucked spectacularly and our goal was to always come in dead-last by the end of the season.
I’m happy to report that we did. GOAL ACHIEVED!
And you know what? I had an absolute blast with this lowered … or should I say lowest … expectation. There was no pressure. No stress. For three summers, Tina and I never got annoyed with each other by gutter balls or being in the bathroom when it was our turn. We drank beer. We ate pizza without bothering to wash our hands of grease before handling our rented balls. Other teams LOVED playing against us and not just because they had a guaranteed win. (Well, I’m sure that played into it.) They could relax as well and have a blast with us.
We all had FUN.
The best part of this summer league was the awards banquet on the final weekend. While we were unfortunately never recognized for our last-place finish, we did get something even better: unlimited crabs and beer. And let me tell you. Us Maryland gals can put down some crabs!
So tasty. So much fun. Did it last?
We were short a couple of players the summer when I met Bob, so we invited him and his brother to join our team. Unfortunately, we soon discovered on the first night that they didn’t exactly share our If you ain’t last, you ain’t having fun policy. Their competitive spirit and years of being on other serious leagues, themselves, kicked in, putting a damper on our lackadaisical attitude, and made things stressful. So needless to say, it was Tina and I’s last summer duckpin adventure.
To be fair, I’m not knocking competitive spirits or criticizing Bob. Tina and I should have made our lowered expectations more clear before they joined us. I, myself, can be competitive, like that one time I had joined a daily step challenge and could be found walking up and down my driveway fifteen minutes before midnight in order to win. And to have a successful career as a writer, which is my goal, there’s got to be some competitive drive fueling your efforts, something that forces you out of bed before the sun rises in order to finish a chapter.
But there’s also something to be said about turning off the drive.
To just enjoy the process and write for fun, with no expectations or desired outcome other than to fully, truly embrace creativity, whatever form that might be. Fanfiction. A Short Story Collection on Wattpad like mine that nobody is reading. An essay to enter into a competition just for shits and giggles.
A blog post inspired by memories of duckpin bowling.
I’ve also been embracing this concept while editing my current novel. Don’t get me wrong, I want it to be good. I want it to have meaning, but I refuse to be hampered by perfectionism anymore. I accept … and even embrace the fact that my novels aren’t going to be the best stories out there, that they’re not going to win major awards or literary prizes.
They will, however, be fun, and you’re gonna want to hang out with them.
That, my friend, is enough for me. So write something fun this weekend. Enjoy creativity, embrace gutter balls, and forget about any If you ain’t first, you’re last notions. After all, even Ricky Bobby’s father admitted …
Take care, fellow creator, and happy writing!