Going for…atomic number 79

‘On me ‘ead, son.’

Like an estimated 1 billion people worldwide (and mindful of apparent restrictions on words that can be used for the next few days), I watched the opening ceremony of the quadrennial ‘global sporting event’ with a mixture of high expectation, positivity and awe. Danny Boyle, Tracey Seaward and the entire team pulled off a truly magnificent spectacle that drew on the achievement and mythos of Great Britain to showcase a vision of where we’ve come from and who we are.

Some will have loved it while some couldn’t wait to take to Twitter with their outrage, cynicism and general thumb-nosery. Who is right? I guess that all depends on what you think the ceremony is about and how important it is for you to see your own perspective portrayed to the world.

As I watched the nations of the world parading around the stadium it made me think about how diverse we are as a species and how many flags I wouldn’t have recognised. It also made me think about the practice writing.

How so? It started with the ideas of preparation, personal sacrifice, dedication and striving to achieve. But there’s also another side to it that chimes with the spirit of Olympism (fret ye not, that one isn’t on the list and I heard one of the BBC team say it yesterday so it’s probably a real word).

Not every country will make it to the podium. Not every competitor will achieve greatness and recognition outside their own small circle. However, each competition represents the culmination of a whole range of factors that started with the intention to compete.

So much of writing now seems to be tied up with atomic number 79. Heaven fore fend that we should only aspire to 47 or 29. I’ve said it many times before now – we’re not all going to the prom. We will not all get a three-book six-figure deal. Some of us may have to be satisfied with a three-book sales sheet. But the opening ceremony reminds us that we can compete on our own terms, by being the writers that we are and doing our best work (and editing and PR and all that other good stuff).

I salute those sportspeople and writers who manage to bring home glory and world recognition for their achievement. They have and will continue to inspire us. I also salute those sportspeople and writers who turn up to give of their best and show their talent to the world, even if the world at large never hears of them again. There is no shame in being outclassed by someone who is better than you. And nothing more honourable than daring to compete in the first place.


  1. Jaxbee says:

    Lovely post, Derek. I remember when I was a member of Authonomy in my dim and distant past and the number tipped over 5000 books, all from wannabe authors who thought their book might just be the one that Harper Collins picked up. Of course I was one of those people too. I still have hope, (why not? The fat lady hasn't sung yet,) but I was always very mindful of the fact that of the 5000 manuscripts on this authors' site alone, very few would eventually be published traditionally and why, really, should it be mine over any of the others? I do believe in my own book but I believe in many others too and it may be the others which get the gold medal. However, I'll keep training, hard, because it's the little steps along the road which get us to our goals, is it not?
    By the way, I absolutely loved the Opening Ceremony, was quite blown away by its creativity, got quite emotional, much to my daughters' amusement…
    Best of luck with your own endeavours!

  2. Derek says:

    I thought the Opening Ceremony was brilliant, unique and, frankly, startling. It was great to see a different twist on 'heroes' and also the focus on the next generation of athletes and citizens.

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