what if writing was a spectator sport?

[ANNOUNCER] Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to today’s qualifying round in the 26th Annual Open-Air Writing Tournament. On this beautiful day, all but the most cautious of contestants will leave their rain gear behind as they set out to test their limits.

Here come the 20 hopefuls! By the end today, only six will remain to compete in Thursday’s final. Who will make the cut? Wily Will Hampton and his alarming facial expressions? Witty Magda Karek and her surprising turns of logic? Pernilla Sabro and her furiously paced quantity?

The judges will weigh three factors: choice of setting, number of words written in one hour, and the quality of the final product.

We’ll introduce the contestants in a moment. First, let’s take a tour around this stunning national park, the setting of this year’s tournament ….

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[ANNOUNCER] Good afternoon. I’m here in the southeast corner of the park with the judges and a sizeable crowd to watch newcomer Freddie Barrie get to work in his chosen setting. He’s found a bench under a huge magnolia tree in full bloom, with a panoramic view over the valley.

And there goes the bell! He’s off. He runs to the bench, whips a cushion out of his rucksack and sits down even as he pulls out his journal and pen. No movements wasted here. Mr. Barrie means business.

Though this year’s main topic of “Fathers and Feelings” has been controversial, so far today it’s turned up some remarkable writing. For this qualifying round, Mr. Barrie randomly chose a sub-topic in a sealed envelope from the box at the judge’s table. On his bench, he now opens the envelope, reads his sub-topic, and a small smile flits across his face.

The crowd is quiet, watching Mr. Barrie intently as he stares out over the valley, pen poised. Unlike most contestants, he doesn’t write immediately but allows the clock to tick as he collects his initial thoughts.

Ah! He’s had a brainwave! His pen is flying. The view is forgotten. He’s only got eyes for the words. It’s very exciting to see this young man so focused on his task.

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[ANNOUNCER] The warning bell has sounded at the 55-minute mark. Mr. Barrie is struggling to wrap things up. At the 37-minute mark he got a writer’s cramp and dropped the pen, but rallied immediately, standing up and jumping around, obviously trying to increase his circulation. A quick massage of the hand and he was back to editing what he’d written in the first 37 minutes. His bursts of writing are now interspersed with feverish searches through the first half-hour’s pages of writing.

Wait a minute. Look at that! The crowd murmurs as Mr. Barrie wipes a tear from his cheek. Hold on. The camera crew tells me they can confirm that it was a real tear. He’s made himself cry with his own writing! This bodes well for the quality of his creation, ladies and gentleman.

The final bell sounds and a runner snatches the journal from Mr. Barrie’s hands and sprints it to the judge’s table. It’s time to hear what Mr. Barrie has come up with as he wrote there on his bench amid the falling magnolia blossoms.

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Related reading:

Let’s Pretend
50 Fiction Prompts for Curious Writers

5 comments to what if writing was a spectator sport?

  • I love the golfing vibe. Could definitely feel the hush from the crowd! I love watching (actually, listening to) golf on TV. It’s so relaxing.

  • Tracy

    I love it! I mean, if chess can be a spectator sport, why not writing? Thanks for the morning giggle.

    • I was thinking of golf tournaments as I was writing this, but, yeah, chess, too, of course. My German husband, who can watch soccer avidly for hours (back and forth ball-kicking — I just don’t get it) doesn’t get baseball. When I try to tell him how exciting I find baseball, he says, “But they’re just standing around.” I suppose my point is that if golf, chess, soccer, and baseball are boring to some and thrilling to others, it only gives the concept of writing as a spectator sport more of a foothold in the realm of possiblity.

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