My major task for this week is to begin the third draft of a hefty piece of writing on which I have been working, sporadically, for about three years. The past few weeks have been a slow run up. I have been reading, going over notes and mulling over structure to help me get into the right frame of mind. I am there now. Today is the day and I feel ready.
But – big but – it is the opening day of Wimbledon. Aside from writing, the spectator sport of tennis is among my lifelong passions. As a ‘displacement activity’ designed to prevent me from the serious business of getting down to real writing work, it ranks high, in amongst other ‘must dos’ such as reorganising the desk, filing and catching up on emails. The timing could not be worse.
Yesterday, however, I read an article in The Observer about the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic. I’ve watched him play on television many times and see him play live twice, but knew little about him. What I learned from the article was that he is a thoughtful young man who keeps a journal as a way to reflect on his experiences on and off the court. He acquired the habit as a young boy in Belgrade, where he lived through the wars of the 1990s. His journal is written in notebooks and on scraps of paper, all kept so that he can look back and reflect upon his changing moods and experiences over time. Here is the article, by Tim Adams.
Those of us who use writing as a tool in therapeutic and counselling contexts believe in the power of the written word to enable people to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings, as well as a way to be creative and to record positive experiences. I find it fascinating that someone like Djokovic, with a highly physical occupation that requires a level of fitness and physical discipline beyond most of us, uses writing to help him deal with the emotional highs and lows that accompany his day job. Like other elite sports tennis is a game of attrition and strategy as much as brute strength. It requires mental toughness and emotional resilience alongside the punishing training regimes and stamina.
No wonder Djokovic sees his journal as a kind of therapy. It is hard to imagine how else to process the thrill of winning and the despair of defeat, and yet I wonder how many other professional sports people do this? I can’t imagine many of the England football team picking up their pens after last week’s dismal performance in Brazil. Perhaps they should try it.
Djokavic is due on court later today. If I can spend the next few hours working on that third draft I will be able to allow myself some hours glued to the TV; twin passions in one day, and a bit of reflection on the power of writing to help us understand our worlds.