Monday, 15 July 2019

Five Things Wimbledon Can Teach You About Writing by Nola Passmore

Did you spend more time watching Wimbledon in the last two weeks than working on your manuscript? If you’re feeling guilty, fret no more. All that ‘tele-tennis’ can actually help with your writing. Here’s how.

Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect

Top players like Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams make the shots look easy. Powerful serves, effortless backhands, precision volleys. If only I had their talent! However, they didn’t master those winning strokes overnight. They practised each one thousands of times before stepping out on court. Now imagine doing all of it in a wheelchair as well. That's exactly what Australian Dylan Alcott did to win this year's inaugural quad wheelchair singles and doubles. You can read more about Dylan's incredible achievements here. If we applied the same discipline to our writing, readers would marvel at our powerful metaphors, effortless dialogue and precision plotting. It’s especially important to practise in your weaker areas. Study the craft, do writing exercises, seek feedback and practise, practise, practise until your words sizzle on the page.  For more detail on the benefits of practice, click here.

The Follow-Through is Key

In tennis, you don’t stop your swing as soon as the racquet makes contact with the ball. You have to follow through to add power and keep the momentum going. ‘Following through’ is just as important in writing. Have you heard or read some great writing tips? Then apply them to your writing in order to cement your learning. Did you promise yourself you’d write more this week? Month? Year? Then do what it takes to fulfil that promise. For more tips on following through, please see a longer post here.

Bad On-Court (Online) Behaviour Comes Back to Bite

There are a lot of wonderful players who show sportsmanship on and off the court—Evonne Cawley, Roger Federer, Ash Barty and Pat Rafter to name a few. However, we’ve also seen the dummy spits. Not only does bad behaviour alienate the player from the public, but it can also result in fines and loss of endorsements. Writers can also lose the good will of the writing fraternity through uncharitable behaviour (e.g. ranting about publishers who’ve rejected their work; debating with readers who’ve given unfavourable reviews; joining online writing communities purely to market their own books without giving back). In the writing world as in other spheres, we’d be wise to ‘do unto others as we’d have them do unto us’.

No Adaptability, No Grand Slam

In order to win a calendar year Grand Slam in tennis, you have to win Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Open, and the United States Open in the same year. In adult singles, this feat has only been won accomplished by two men (Don Budge and Rod Laver) and three women (Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf). One reason it’s so difficult is that the tournaments are played on different surfaces: grass for Wimbledon, clay for the French Open, and hard courts for the Australian and US Opens. (Though some surfaces have changed over the years). If players can’t adapt to different surfaces, they won’t win all four events. While you don’t have to ‘win’ at all types of writing, you can increase your opportunities by learning to write across various styles and genres. Different types of writing can cross-pollinate. Writing poetry can help you develop fresh imagery in your fiction; writing fiction can help you add more creativity to your nonfiction pieces. Why not experiment with those different surfaces? You might be surprised at the results.

It’s Not All Strawberries and Cream 

Did you know that 28 000 kg of strawberries and 10 000 litres of cream are used during Wimbledon? Well, some of that cream probably goes on the scones, but that still leaves a lot of strawberries and cream to tempt the taste buds. Tennis isn’t just about those delectable moments. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence to succeed. The same is true of writing. We’d all like to be the person who wrote their debut novel in a few weeks and then sat back as it climbed the bestseller lists. However, ‘overnight’ success occurs when writers buckle down and write through the hard times as well as the good. Some days, writing is pure joy. Other days, you want to kill your protagonist for creating so many plot problems for you. Hang in there and it won’t be long before the strawberries and cream are tantalising your writerly taste buds again.

(N.B. Blog Photos from Pixabay and Stencil, free creative commons use; Author photo by Wayne Logan. An earlier version of this post appeared on The Write Flourish writing tips blog.)

Author Bio

Nola Passmore (aka Nola Lorraine) has had more than 140 short pieces published including short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, devotions, magazine articles and academic articles. Her debut novel Scattered, an inspirational historical novel, is being published by Breath of Fresh Air Press in 2020. She and her husband Tim run their own editing business called The Write Flourish. When not writing herself, she loves to nag (oops ... encourage) other to write. One day, she should read through all of her blog posts and take her own advice 😄

The Write Flourish website:


  1. I had a brief encounter with tennis lessons when I was about 10. During the nine-week term, I learned how to hit a tennis ball with a racket - forehand, backhand and serve. At the end of the term, I still had no idea how to even play a game of tennis. My mum decided to stop paying for tennis lessons, because she thought, at the very least, the tennis instructor should have introduced me to the rules of the game. I can also see an analogy to writing in this, because, no matter how much you hone your skills in spelling, grammar, and writing techniques, you gotta put that stuff into practice, put it all together and learn the game (art?) of writing to become an author. Then you have to learn the art of marketing oneself and one's creations. Being in love with the idea of writing without actually serving the ball, so to speak, doesn't make you a winner. (Tennis pun intended.) Thanks for serving up such a stirring and practical post, Nola. :)

  2. Thanks Mazzy. That's a great example. I used to play a lot of tennis in my school and Uni days. I knew everything I should do, but never really put the time into practising. I won a few singles and doubles matches, but I don't think our team ever won. We only ever got together on a tennis court to play the actual match.

    We can also learn lots of the tricks of the trade in writing (e.g. show don't tell; how to use dialogue tags; metaphors and strong verbs etc) but it's no use unless we can put them all together into a story, poem, article etc. I don't think we ever run out of things to learn.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

  3. Great analogy Nola. Now all I need to do is put is into practice. This blog may have inspired me enough to go and turn on the computer. Thanks

    1. LOL Jo. I'm sitting here at the moment trying to do the edits on my novel. Would definitely be easier if I had spent more time practising setting and description. I must follow my own advice. And good on you for turning on the computer :)

  4. Great anaology, Nola. What an impressive amount of strawberries and cream. I did a bit of tennis at school, but then played squash for many years as an adult - which meant the few times I did play tennis, the ball went flying into the wild, blue yonder, not just out of the lines but out of the court entirely. In squash - it's all in a flexible wrist. Not so much in Tennis.

    1. LOL Jenny. I've only played squash a couple of times. I found it scary to have that ball whipping back at me. I guess that's another important analogy. If you're practising outside your genre, you still need to know what will work back in your genre. Thanks for commenting. Will have to take you out for strawberries and cream sometime :)

    2. I loved the fast and furious pace with squash. In the end asthma caught up with me. And yes, what works for one genre may not work for another, but the fundamentals stay the same.
      And I won't say no to strawberries and (GF) cream :)

  5. Thanks, Nola. Great post. You aced it this time, serving up great analogies and volleying our questions even before we asked them. Yes, my pun inhibition mechanism appears broken (sorry about that :D). Seriously, I love the images you’ve used here. Especially regarding practice. We’ve got to write and write and write and continually improve our game.
    I’ve been watching the Tour de France as well. This contest shows importance of perseverance and training for endurance. Also picking the right battles according to your strengths and positioning yourself well in the contest. This applies to marketing too, I think. I knew there was a good reason I’ve let myself be so sleep deprived this month.

    1. Great analogy, Sue. This writing business certainly does take endurance and perseverance. Though I may have to give you a serve over the breakdown of your pun inhibitor ;)

      I'm doing the edits of my novel at the moment and I really wish I'd done more practice sessions on setting and description along the way. One of my weak points. I don't think the learning will ever stop. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. Great post Nola and I loved the analogy. Your five parallels to the writing journey were spot on and what apt pictures you'd shared. I remember watching a Tennis match years ago at 2 in the morning and refused to get to bed till it was over because it was so exciting. What struck me then was the perseverance needed by the winner to keep going no matter what. Guess that applies a lot to us writers too!

    Many thanks Nola. Love Tennis and love writing! All the best in your exciting new season of writing. The best is yet to be!

    1. Thanks Anusha. My days of staying up until 2.00 in the morning are over. I need my sleep ... LOL But I used to stay up til all hours watching matches back in my Uni days. I'd even go to bed at 8.00 to get a few hours sleep and set my alarm for 11 pm when the matches started (Brisbane time). Lots of great matches. That was back in the days of Chris, Martina and Bjorn. Gosh, that makes me sound old. It certainly does take perseverance to succeed at anything, including writing. You're someone who's shown a lot of perseverance in getting your own books out.

      Thanks for your kind words. Let's pray for that exciting season of writing and outcomes.