A few weeks ago, I completed one leg of the Trek Triathlon in Long Island,
I was thinking back on that race today, remembering the adrenaline rush as I pushed through the four laps of the nine-mile cycling course. I have written several books about other people’s sports achievements, but it’s rare that I’m the one who’s doing the achieving. Four years ago I competed in my first triathlon, doing it all: swimming, cycling, and running. But other than that, I’ve spent the last 35 years or so comfortably watching sports from a spectator’s seat.
I’m not sure if my fellow I.N.K. bloggers will agree, but for me, being an observer is an occupational hazard. I watch, read, listen, and ask questions to gather the information I need to tell the stories of people who do something memorable or significant. I know that writing a book is in itself significant, but my natural inclination, whether learned or developed, is to be a witness. Years ago, I was taught that reporters are not supposed to become part of their stories, and nonfiction authors are basically reporters. To this day, I am more likely to take in a situation than to actively participate in it.
While I don’t want to lose my power of observation, I’ve been thinking lately that jumping into the fray is not such a bad thing. After all, having a variety of different life experiences can only make my writing more vivid and authentic. So I’m trying to participate more. Last Friday night, I actually got up on stage in a bar in