(Oddly enough, I wrote this a few weeks ago, well before the fervor that was unleashed yesterday.)
I had the most fascinating conversation the other day.
A friend’s husband is a scientist and we were discussing the prevalence of genetic blood enhancement in professional cycling. My eideticly enhanced hubby covered the baseball and football bases. Basically, we concluded that pretty much all professional athletes are juiced up in same way, shape or form. Cynical, yes. Realistically, how could they not be? They are performing super human feats of athletic prowess, with almost zero recovery time. Now, I don’t want this to turn into a discussion about the pros and cons of steroids. I have something else in mind.
What would happen if we, writers, were made aware of a drug that would allow us to enhance our writing? Can you imagine? And if there were a writing enhancing drug — not LSD, mind you, what then?
My first instinct, right or wrong, is we would be stabbing people to move ahead in the line.
To get at the heart of the matter, I guess we do have to tap into the steroid argument a bit. Is there something to be taken away from professional athletes who use performance enhancing drugs? If you’ve ever been around someone who aspires to "professional" status, or even a dedicated amateur, you know that they work beyond normal human endurance at their sport. It’s a gift, I think, that can’t be disguised. The constant desire to be better, to excel, isn’t bred into all of us. Steroids don’t give an athlete the will to train at 4 in the morning before work. They don’t drive the desire to work harder to improve, to fight for every inch in training opportunities and sponsorships, to sacrifice. Because honestly, being a pro at anything is a sacrifice. You have to give up friends, family, free time to pursue your dream. Hmmm… I guess there’s a stronger correlation between writers and athletes than I thought.
Shouldn’t we celebrate these people? Or should we treat the ones who take a shortcut with derision?
I was an athlete in high school, a decent shot and discus thrower, a better golfer. I competed at the state level in discus and shot, and was the only girl on the golf team — at the time, there wasn’t a separate system for women golfers. Fine by me, I could play with the best of them at that point. (I remember the final meeting of the district board: "You’ll have to play from the white tees…" Me: "Oooh, scary." Ah, the joys of youth, when Bring It On takes on a whole new meaning.) So I had a full schedule — fall and winter indoor track, spring outdoor track, and golf spring through fall. School was the obvious priority (cough) but all my free time was dedicated to track and the links. Which I loved. And there’s something to be said for that level of desire.
I had to choose between a track scholarship to two different excellent ACC schools or a golf team in Florida at a lesser known college. Daddy threw in the offer to let me put off school for a year and try for the LPGA Q school, which I stupidly turned down. ("I need to get a good education" — notice I’m not using my degrees…) I made the decision to go to school and pursue golf, which in hindsight wasn’t the smartest, but set me on the course that I’m on now, so I can’t complain too much. I played golf and IM volleyball, and had a decent time. I didn’t enjoy the competition at the higher level like I did in high school, probably because the other team’s players made me immediately and knew exactly how to rattle me. I don’t like being touched in competition. You can imagine.
And now that I’ve gotten completely off the subject… my point is I pursued these activities with a vengeance, trying to make myself the best that I could be. Something like what I do with writing.
Back to the writing enhancing drugs. There’s obviously been several legal and illegal means to expand our cerebral muscles. But I’m talking about a hypothetical enhancement that would make us the bionic writer. Better, stronger, faster.
Competition with writers can be as cutthroat as it gets. I’ve heard some pretty frightening stories about people desperate to climb to the top of the ladder, about egos, bitterness and jealousy wiping out friendships. I’ve also seen some amazing cooperative efforts, seen friendships flourish and grow under tight deadlines and differences of opinion.
Could anything good ever come of literary blood doping? Or would we make some scientists very rich women and men?
Wine of the Week: 2003 Li Veli Passamante Negroamaro, shared with great friends at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse in New Orleans last week. Yum, but let it breathe a bit.