Twizzles, Harry Connick Junior, and Me

Breathtaking performances, agonizing waits for judges’ critiques, tears, exhilaration, relief.

These heights and depths are currently playing out in two dramatic locations—Sochi’s Olympic venues and American Idol’s Hollywood studios—as well as in one obscure corner of the world: my writing office.

My workspace is my practice hall, where in the early morning hours, I put myself through my paces, polishing book drafts, essays, short stories in the hopes of scoring that perfect 10 —representation, publication, or a book deal— or at the very least, a second look, which in Idol parlance, translates to Harry Connick Jr. handing you a ticket to Hollywood Week.

No guarantees, but you’re still in the running.

Yes, we writers experience highs, like the ping of publication or the rush of a pitch getting an agent’s attention. These are worth a million early mornings. Then there are the lows, when the rejections pile up— or worse, when there is no acknowledgement of the dozens of queries you’ve launched into the murky darkness of digital submissions.

I could go on ad nauseum comparing writers and artists to Olympic hopefuls and Idol contestants. But I won’t. I’d really rather just get back to my writing, but in today’s literary landscape, that isn’t enough. We also are expected to ably post, tweet and otherwise self-promote from social media platforms more sophisticated than Sochi’s slopestyle course or the pairs’ long program. I suppose this is the athlete’s equivalent of a slopeside Access Hollywood interview or a chat with Ellen post-Idol elimination— it comes with the territory.

The truth is, publishing, like sports, music, and any other industry where only a few can rise to the top, has upped its game. Did anyone know what a Twizzle was ten years ago? When Simon Cowell first hit our shores in his blinding white tee shirts, were the Idol contestants accompanying themselves on guitar or keyboard? Can you imagine Hemingway’s Instagram feed?

The stakes are higher today: those who want to make an impression—a lasting impression—must up our games as well.

So yeah, maybe I’m not so different from my dawn patrol comrades: the skaters showing up at the rink for a 5 a.m. practice, or the Idol hopefuls in line to audition before sunrise. You just have to keep putting yourself out there. Because you never know when that big break will come.

I do feel the pressure a little more than most. After all, I’m the same age as the oldest Olympian in Sochi, Hubertus von Hohenlohe, a six-time Mexican Olympian who is also a German prince.

He came to Sochi knowing his chances of medaling were slim. But Hubertus has a plan: If the Olympics don’t pan out, he can fall back on his recording career. Among other pursuits, Prince Hubertus is also a pop star who goes by the name of Andy Himalaya.

When Andy Himalaya quits his day job, then I will, too.