Lessons for writers from Wimbledon

Today I watched the greatest example of self-sabotage. It was frustrating because I knew it was coming. It was inevitable but I wish I had been proven wrong.

I’m talking about Nick Kyrgios playing in the Gentlemen’s Final of Wimbledon.

As I’m writing this, I am aware that he has been charged with domestic violence and that he is due in court in August 2022. I’m not here to comment on that because I have all kinds of thoughts, but this isn’t the place or time. It did, however, give me pause before writing this.

Still, I ask your patience as I set that aside and talk about his tennis performance in general, because he is the perfect example of self-sabotage and one we can learn from.

See, Nick Kyrgios has always been a promising talent. Promising but unproven.

He’s shown up at matches and purposely thrown them because he just stops caring. His temper tantrums are legendary. Equally legendary are his trick shots of tweezers and underhanded serves.

But in the midst of all of that chaos, are signs of true tennis brilliance. Greatness, even.

In January of 2022, Kyrgios and his doubles partner Kokkinakis won the Australian Open Doubles title and his attitude seemed to change.

A little.

In February 2022, he admitted to having depression and suicidal thoughts. I started to think maybe that played into his on-court behavior. Or, mis-behavior. We all handle stress and pressure differently.

In tournaments that followed the Australian Open, there seemed to be improved concentration and control and attitude from Kyrgios. We started to see how great he had the potential to be.

Inevitably, someone, a fan, the chair umpire, someone would say something, Kyrgios would miss a shot, and it was back to the same old antics. Especially tantrums. When the tantrums started, he stopped concentrating, stopped playing, and naturally, he’d lose.

Fast forward to today, July 2022 and the Championship Final of Wimbledon. Yes, he’d had tantrums on his way to the finals, but his determination had been stronger. His play was stronger. It was incredible to watch.

So when Rafael Nadal pulled out due to an abdominal injury (much to my great sadness), Kyrgios got a walk-over to the final and would play Novak Djokovic, a 20-time Grand Slam Champion, 6 of those titles from Wimbledon.

Prior to the match, Kyrgios posted on social media suggesting the two of them go out for dinner and drinks after the match, the winner pays.

It read to me like he was setting himself up, hedging his bets. If he loses, it’s OK, he wasn’t really taking it seriously, he doesn’t have to pay for dinner and drinks.

Kyrgios was on fire in the first set, winning it. Djokovic didn’t know what to do with him. It was clear Kyrgios had worked on his fitness and his match play. he could hold his own with one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

And then something happened. Someone said something. He missed a shot. A call was missed. Something. And Kyrgios started cursing, arguing with the fans, with his coach and team, with the umpire, with himself.

Sure, Djokovic got frustrated at times and it distracted him for a point or two at most.

Kyrgios didn’t stop talking and arguing for the remainder of the match.

In the fourth set, he pulled even, got into a tie-break and then his temper got out of control and he lost.

This was his first singles final in a grand slam, and arguably the biggest tournament in the history of tennis.

No doubt he felt immense nerves and pressure going in to the match and during the match.

When he focussed, his tennis was amazing. He could have won.

Instead, he sabotaged himself. He’d won the first set and he was about to pull ahead in the second set when he started to implode.

So what does this have to do with writing?

We sabotage ourselves all the time. We don’t take the opportunities available to us. We miss deadlines, we take a day off from writing even when we know we don’t have the time to take away from it.

The key to stopping the slide into full-on implosion, from pulling a Nick Kyrgios, is recognizing what we’re doing, and then consciously doing something about it.

That’s why I wrote Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, and created the mini-course of the same name.

I was dealing with my own self-sabotage and needed these tools to move forward as a writer.

Do I still self-sabotage? Sure. Sometimes. The important thing is that I know how to recognize when I’m doing it, why, and how to stop it.

These are tools I use with my coaching clients too. We tend to get in our own way when it comes to our success. Just like Kyrgios, we will find a way to lose, to prove that we were right all along, that we don’t deserve it, that we’re not good enough, that we’re not worthy.

We do deserve it. We are good enough. We are worthy.

What we need to do, is stop being a Kyrgios, and Silence our Inner Saboteur before it is too late and we lose the biggest opportunity, the biggest break of our writing life that will ever come our way.

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