Go ahead and click the link to read the essay. I won't mind. It's not what you think from the title.
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The reason to read the essay isn't because of tennis -- or track and field -- but of the act of writing. From staring at the blank page*** through the blacking out in the middle of writing to the high of completing a story, you may find some or all of these familiar. So if it's so damn obvious, why talk about?
Because new writers often feel like they are reinventing the wheel and the silicon PNP transistor all at the same time. There are plenty of creative writing classes and books on writing which aren't much help, especially to genre writers. I suspect Ms. Okorafor's creative writing classes at Chicago State might be different. Being actually published in non-literary journals isn't a requirement for most creative writing instructors, as I understand it.
Reading widely, meeting other authors, blogs, websites and high valued targets like Clarion and WOTF. It surely helped me as a writer to get out of my secret hiding place and just talk to people. To get some idea how markets worked, etc. But the Big Thing was realizing that writing was a lot like any other endeavour -- you don't have to work in a vacuum and you won't find that all of your writing quirks are unique in the history of mankind, or at least SF/F/H. But that doesn't make you some cookie cutter drone on some assembly line. We only care about the stories on this end. (evil-grin)
Anyway, it's a nice essay by a terrific author.
*** Or the not so blank screen of the modern word processor for many of us. Which brings me to another point, regarding how much blank screen you get. Back in the MS-DOS days, I knew a lot of people who preferred WordPerfect because you got more screen real estate to work with. As opposed to WordStar whose default menu took up a third of the screen if you didn't turn it off. Windows made us get used to multiple menu bars intruding on our space. The problem these days is that applied on tiny devices, my Kindle Fire HD for one, the usable writing area gets smaller and smaller.
But I digress...
UPDATE: 12/11/2013 -- In today's email, "Nnedi Okorafor was originally a published finalist in Writers of the Future Volume 18 in 2002 and has since gone on to a very successful writing career and is now a contest judge." And this essay first appeared in the current WOTF XXIX. No wonder I felt like I had seen it, but not read it -- in hospital I read all the stories but saved the essays for later... And like me, she was a published finalist, not a winner. (In doing a quick pre-lab for this piece, I glanced at the list of WOTF winners.)