Is it the taking part that matters?

The HHOR trophy for the slowest boat..
The HHOR trophy for the slowest boat..

So here’s the thing. Is it really the taking part that counts, or winning? This is the refrain that has been rolling around my head this week, ever since the gig race at the weekend. Race number two of my gig rowing journey, and I was marginally less terrified than the last time. I was in a mixed crew of juniors/novices, and was more apprehensive about being whipped by those a third my age (one was nearer a quarter), and letting them all down by not keeping up. I actually held my own (phew), but it was an epic race… so much so for us that we crossed the line as the slowest boat in the race, taking 51.54 minutes.

We crossed the line as slowest boat but I loved it (when I’d got my breath back). I loved the endurance, the teamwork, the crew, the cox, the testing conditions, the adrenaline rush, and I didn’t care that we hadn’t won. I laughed when we were presented with an award (the photo) for the slowest boat over the line.

How does that translate to the writing of the novel, the WIP. What is the prize? Will it be seeing it completed, or is it about seeing it in print? I’m not sure. I’m battling away at the moment (55,000 words and counting), but hot after a few days at Cheltenham Literary Festival, the thought occurred to me that it might not be good enough to see anything other than my bottom drawer. If I’m like other novelists, then odds are it will languish somewhere. That, surprisingly, didn’t depress me (even after 18 months on this thing), so perhaps it isn’t really the prize/the winning, but my own journey with it.

As my world has gone rather glittery at the edges with Strictly, I wondered the same for the contestants. Two sportsmen have gone, and I wondered if they were truly gutted, because their worlds are rather about winning and losing. I can’t help think that when someone like Carol Kirkwood, or Daniel O’Donnel, goes out, they’ll be disappointed, but will delight in what they’ve taken from it. Perhaps I’m being disingenuous to the sportsmen, but I’ve never been that good at sports! Ah, but perhaps therein lies the thing that matters to me…

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