What we, as writers & creators, can learn from Olympic Gold Ice-Skating Champions
Can you hear the opening bars of the Bolero playing in your head? The dum, dum, dadadadadada-dum as the drums softly keep a steady beat.
In 1984, well over thirty years ago, a skating couple wearing tie-dyed iris-purple from my birth town of Nottingham were swaying side to side to the soft beat.
Now, I’m not a skating fan, I don’t watch - for example - Dancing on Ice or the Winter Olympics as a rule but this couple, when I was younger than my daughter is now, captured the entire nation during the Sarajevo Winter Olympics.
The skating couple that had so much pressure on them from the nation’s media ended up getting a perfect score. Something that hasn’t been seen before. Or since (at least since the BBC documentary was recorded four years ago!)
I watched the Torvill and Dean biopic over Christmas on ITV - I really enjoyed the dramatisation of their lives and got really into it. So watching the interviews with Torvill and Dean on the BBC was a natural progression in my Christmas viewing.
I was struck by a number of things they said as well as by their drive and determination - and I couldn’t help but compare their attitude and associated success with my own experiences as a writer and online creator.
Everything about that dance: the choreography, the costumes, the music, the way they approached warm-up - was completely different to what everyone else was doing at that time. The music, in particular was one long piece and not three cuts of more showy tunes. Their closest rivals, the Russians, were all about the lifts and razzmatazz. Torvill and Dean’s dance was so different. It was a narrative of a man and woman in forbidden love who proceed to throw themselves into a volcano. The soft music really built up to a dramatic climax.
It was a complete departure from what had been done before.
Torvill and Dean were fifth in line to skate. They had a long twenty minutes to wait so went away from the ice and closed their ears and eyes to the other competitors. They had no idea what each competitor had scored before them.
They would literally cover their ears when the scores were announced as Christopher explains: ‘In our minds, it was about what we had to do and not about watching others.’
Stop there and take that in. Say that sentence again. It was all about what we had to do. Not about watching others.
So many things I am seeing online is so very similar to the next person. Whether it is on Instagram or YouTube someone might have some success then others jump onto that same bandwagon hoping for that same success.
Of course, this is not unique to online creatives, this has happened in every industry and art form but nowhere is it more apparent than Instagram, for example, where the similar photos appear in rapid succession as you scroll through your timeline.
But - it’s not just instagram. It’s any work online.
There are online voices telling you that you must work on your email list, that you must get onto Pinterest, you must put yourself in front of the camera, you must do this you must do that….and everyone listens to these voices. After all, it has worked for them, right? So we follow and the internet becomes a sea of sameness.
But it’s so hard to ignore. Don’t you find that if you listen to all the advice you become overwhelmed? And when you become overwhelmed your drive, your creativity - it becomes stifled. I felt like I was being squeezed into a tube with other creatives, mixed up, then pumped out the other side as a kind of Internet sausage meat.
Torvill and Dean didn’t watch the other competitors during the actual competition. They also didn’t in the run up to the competition. And as such they weren’t being influenced by others or told that they had to do it a certain way in order to be successful (and if they were told they certainly ignored it!). Because they were creating from their own hearts. And, as such, it was full of passion and creativity. It wasn’t engineered. It wasn’t ticking boxes. It wasn’t sterile.
And they got full marks and a place in sporting history.