“He makes his own doors.” Said of a winning Tour de France sprinter
“We each carry our own Tour de France inside us.” Philippe Brunel
July is always big in my house, because it’s the month when the Tour de France takes place — a three-week, massively challenging bike race on roads, hills, and mountains. The scenery is gorgeous and the race is amazing — it’s widely considered the toughest sports competition in the world. Ever since my son Alex became a cyclist, I’ve enjoyed the Tour, not just because of all the drama that unfolds, but also because the grit, wit, and perseverance the cyclists show day after day are so inspiring to me as a writer.
In a hotly contested sprint, Marcel Kittel (after riding more than a 100 miles!), found the legs to win it. As he chased down his victory, one expert observed, “He makes his own doors.” Wow! To make your own doors — to create your own opportunities in a demanding situation — what a strategy! Ever since I heard these words, I’ve been pondering how we can make our own doors and create opportunities for ourselves as writers. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Working with what is: The sprint finish in this stage was tough. A few experts noted that its configuration didn’t really suit Marcel’s style of racing. But clearly, Marcel had other ideas. He accepted the course as it was and figured out a way to make it work for him: No complaining or blaming a tricky design. For us: We need to do what we can where we are with what we have.
Keeping our eye on the prize: As the sprint headed toward the finish, riders jockeyed to get in the front and expended a lot of energy. Marcel pursued another strategy: He came from behind, found an opening to the left, and then steadily gained speed, working his way past the other riders. Once he had a clear field, he turned on the gas and charged to the finish way ahead of everyone else. Instead of being distracted by what other riders were doing, he created his own path: he found his own line and then patiently and methodically pursued it. For us: We need to chart our own course and work our way patiently toward our goals without letting what other people say or do distract or discourage us.
Being in the moment: Watching the replay of the sprint, I was struck by how calm and focused Marcel had to be — how alive to the moment and what it demanded. No matter how much you study a race book or ride a course in advance, there’s no way to anticipate race day conditions. To win, you have to put all that information in your head aside and simply ride your heart out in the moment. You also have to be alert to what’s unfolding around you so you can make your own door and cruise through it. For us: We create opportunities for ourselves by being alert and attuned to possibilities — a chance encounter with someone who knows an agent, a new contest we read about, a literary magazine someone mentions, a fresh idea that flits into our head and needs to be nurtured to fulfill its promise.
Making our own doors — so much more fun than knocking on them. Write on!