What do writers and the high-flying Harlem Globetrotters have in common?

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Erin Staley is a literal choreographer, having taken her award-wining dance composition from the stage to the page. Now based in Mexico, she captures the passion of innovative businesses, translating it into expressive content – copy with punch. Her energetic approach can be found in website content, online and print magazines, workshops, and professionally contracted non-fiction books.

Erin Staley
Erin Staley

Writers, like athletes, strive for tip top strength, agility and endurance when it comes to the pen-to-paper action.

Sometimes I think we are the Harlem Globetrotters of stories, spinning our plots and characters, flipping them around and bouncing them up and down until they are shot onto the paper. And while our drafts often resemble playbooks marked up with lines and arrows, Xs and Os, we know this is just the strategy we need to implement on game day.

As word athletes, we align our game against the rulebook of grammar. Fundamentals are honed and then mastered, transcending our word play into artistry. Style manuals such as Chicago Manual Style and Associated Press provide clarity for foul-proof communication in any genre. No matter if we write mysteries, romances, children’s books or short shorts, we know that our perfected skills will be ready when the starting whistle blows.

Like the Harlem Globetrotters, we rely on our “team” for the back-and-forth passes of support, encouragement and feedback. Together with writing colleagues, masterful books and proofreading buddies, we overcome the season’s slumps – on-the-road demands, losing streaks, fatigue and injury. By game day, we are a force. Our words ignite a passion, inspire a fresh perspective or stir a call to action within our readers.

We also turn to outside sources – coaches if you will – to help us refine our story-telling endeavors. Mentors offer one-on-one drilling, often accompanied by the whistle of brutal honesty. Online tools, books, workshops and conferences call for a time out. They give us inspiration to fine-tune what is already in play. Day by day training sharpens our agility. Athletic refinement allows us to move within the framework of the story while word-handling skills help us to maneuver through the complexity of revision.

Yes, we are word athletes. Spry, able-minded competitors driven by the passion to write well and to connect with our readers. We want to push through the grind of the regular season in order to reach the sweet spot of tournament play – the season final.

As the iconic “Sweet Georgia Brown” theme song plays in the background, we put on our game face, stretch our arms and push the power button. The challenge is set. We roll those plots and characters over the shoulders and around the head. We dribble, guard and spin finely crafted words on the tips of our fingers. We jump from mid court, showing off our high flying capabilities, before slam dunking the story through the net of publication. As the swoosh echoes throughout the court, the fans are on their feet.

It’s a storytelling blowout.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Wonderful analogy, Erin. I’ve watched the Globetrotters many times over the years and know a couple of the originals. And if we can make our words sing and dance the way the Globetrotters made us sing and dance to Sweet Georgia Brown, then we have a real chance to succeed in this writing game. They could do things with a basketball that you couldn’t believe. Now it’s our turn, and words are a lot easier to pass, bounce, and shoot. There are so damn many of them.

    • Erin Staley

      You’re right, Caleb. I’m thankful I have words to pass, bounce, and shoot. It’s always a crowd pleaser when those words go in for the “swoosh”.

      • Caleb Pirtle

        The key is to pick up the right word when the wrong word bounces off the rim and ram it through the net.

  • Jim Callan

    Great post, Erin. And good advice. Thanks.

    • Erin Staley

      Thanks, Jim. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the article and are ready to showcase your own winning words.

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