The Inner Game Of Writing
In an interview with The Players Tribune, eight-time Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi revealed how he defeated then champion Boris Becker.
Becker and Agassi were both at the top of their game in the late 80s and early 90s. Boris Becker had beaten Agassi three times. He was a top-ranking player at the time because of his unique serve, something the game had never seen before.
Knowing he had to raise his game when it came to countering the German’s serve, Agassi managed to develop a unique way of reading his great rival’s serve.
He watched tape after tape of Becker’s matches and realized he did this weird tick with his tongue.
“I’m not kidding. said Agassi, “He would go into his rocking motion, his same routine, and just as he was about to toss the ball, he would stick his tongue out.”
“And it would either be right in the middle of his lip,” he revealed, “or to the left corner of his lip.”
Agassi figured out that while serving in the deuce court, if Boris put his tongue in the middle of his lip, he would either serve at the middle or to the body. But if he would put his tongue to the side, he would serve out wide.
He used this knowledge to predict his opponent’s game and started winning against him. By the time they hung their rackets, Agassi had won ten matches against Becker.
But he had to remain tight-lipped about his discovery.
“The hardest part wasn’t returning his serve — it was not letting him know that I knew this,” Agassi said.
“I had to resist the temptation of reading his serve for the majority of the match and choose the moment when I was gonna use that information on a given point to execute a shot that would allow me to break the match open.”
A few years later, he finally gave away the secret at Oktoberfest.
They went out and had a pint of beer together, and Agassi couldn’t help but say, “By the way, did you know you used to do this and give away your serve?”
Becker almost fell off the chair.
He said, “I used to go home all the time and tell my wife. It’s like he reads my mind. Little did I know, you were just reading my tongue.”
Agassi was able to win because he spent time studying his opponent.
Writing is a game too. Some people are better at it than others.
I often ask myself, if writing is a game, then how do you win it?
My answer: by studying other writers.
Like Agassi, we need to invest time to learn from the masters.
The one thing that holds so many writers back is their mindset. The inner critic is real, and it has far more power than we realize.
If you can learn to silence the inner critic, anything is possible. You can put yourself in a position to win. (Note I said “put yourself in a position to win,” not “win.")
The way I beat my inner critic is by doing whatever I want. I write the stories I’m passionate about, pick projects that energize me, and focus on having fun. My inner critic doesn’t show up if I do things for fun. It only shows up if I am serious about something.
I have been writing a book on productivity for about six months. I have tried to finish it three times. Each time my inner critic has sat on my shoulder and told me it is not good enough.
I started a project on organizing my files on Obsidian, and my inner critic didn’t bother showing up. It was a fun project. Had it been a serious project he would have sat on my shoulder again and wouldn’t let me proceed.
I am going to trick my inner critic again. I want to write a book about my trip to UK and Spain. I told my inner critic that I would not write a book but doddle a book.
He blinked and said, “So, how would you publish it.”
“I am not going to publish it,” I responded, “I might write an occasional post about it on LinkedIn.”
He looked at me as if I had gone mad, though for a second, then said okay and disappeared.
I didn’t tell him what my actual plan was. For a long time, I have wanted to write a book like that of Lynda Berry.
I decided to experiment with it during traveling.
While traveling to new places, I notice a number of things that otherwise I don’t. I want to capture those. If my notes turn out good, I might collate them and turn them into a book.
Like Agassi, I will not tell my inner critic until after.
I need you to keep my secret too.
When I get back, I will be running a sprint, Write Your Book In 30 Days, from 18 July; if you are interested, register your name here.
That’s all from me this week.
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