Lance Armstrong & Jonah Lehrer–What are We Willing to Do to Win?

Just (stop all the whining and) Do It

When it comes down to it, most of us want to be winners. We like being #1, and it is very human to want the adoration and attention that goes with being the best. Face it, we admire winners. The world pauses for the Olympics, football games, the World Cup, and the Tour de France. In many ways, athletes are heroes, and we live vicariously through them.

Most of us will never have what it takes to sacrifice years of our lives for a sport or an event. We don’t have what it takes to wake at 3:30 in the morning year after year, to endure injuries and heartbreaks all for a singular purpose. Since we don’t have that kind of mettle, we elevate those who do.

Ah, but there is a dark side to the pursuit of victory.

What are we willing to do to win? What will we do to be the best?

In this morning’s news, world-class cyclist Lance Armstrong is giving in and refusing to continue the battle to clear his name and fight charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong has been accused of doping by the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Association), and now that Armstrong refuses to fight, this means that he has been effectively disqualified from every event he’s competed in since 1998. This will likely cost the cyclist all 7 Tour de France titles and his bronze Olympic medal. The fact that Armstrong is refusing to defend himself, to many, seems to be an admission of guilt.

Whether Armstrong is guilty or innocent remains to be seen, but we are no stranger to athletes who’ve fallen from grace due to cheating. Steroids seem to be a rampant problem no matter how many athletes ruin their lives and forever taint their names using them. One would think that these men and women would serve as cautionary tales to future athletes, yet they don’t. Why?

One of my favorite quotes is:

Some people have the talent to take them to the stars, but they lack the character to keep them there. ~Joyce Meyers

A Matter of Character

A lot of it boils down to character. Do we have the character to do what’s right when no one is looking? Even if we know no one would ever find out?

I would love to say that I have always been a person of impeccable character, but, um *thunder rumbling* I already lie about my weight and age, so best not to tempt fate. In many ways, I believe my journey as a writer has been a lot less about developing my talent and far more about developing my character.

The Writer-Athlete

Most writers don’t think of themselves as athletes and yet, that is exactly what we are. We are in an endurance and precision sport of the mind. Those who will do well train every day. They give up movies, shopping and television time. Real writers are known to stay up into the late night hours or rise before dawn to do what they do. Becoming a professional author means we adapt our lives to our art, much the same way a professional athletes adapt their lives to their particular sport.

Like athletes, writers often travel, we seek coaches, we get critique…and we face temptation.

Temptation in the Digital Age of Publishing

I love the Digital Age and the opportunities it presents, yet there are new pressures writers haven’t ever faced before. We feel this pressure to be fascinatingly interesting all the time. Many professional authors (particularly non-fiction authors) write articles, speak, teach, blog and write books and everyone demands unique, clever never-seen-before-material.

As the pace of society picks up, so has the demand for information and entertainment. Writers are expected to write better and faster, and we are under this unprecedented public scrutiny. While the current paradigm promises great job security, the constant attention can generate insane insecurity to perform always better and better and yes, better.

Ah, but herein lies the issue. Pride.

Admit We Have Limits

It is hard for me to admit that I am not 110% every day. I want to look good to others. No, I want to look better than good. I want to look AWESOME. Yet, here is the thing, we all have a finite amount of awesome. We can’t be totally on our game every hour of every day. We need to get really good at checking that pride and saying, “No.”

I know you want me to have brand new material for every single blog post, but I just can’t do that. I’m sorry to disappoint you.

The Same Pants They Got Mad In, They Can Get Glad In

We must learn that people have a right to be disappointed, and they will get over it. If we don’t accept this fact and we try to push ourselves beyond reasonable limits, then we open ourselves to cutting corners, and, like steroids, that is just a decision that will come back to bite us.

Pride Comes Before the Fall

One of my favorite authors is Jonah Lehrer. I am a science nerd, and I love anything that has to do with neuroscience. Lehrer’s books Proust was a Neuroscientist and his latest book Imagine were two of my favorites, both heavily highlighted and dog-eared…until this past week. Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker and admitted to making up Bob Dylan quotes in his blockbuster book Imagine.

This is the writer equivalent of steroid use.

His mortified publisher has ordered the runaway best-selling book be pulled from stores. Many of you know that I have been working on a WANA 2.0. Much of the research that I’d planned to put into my new book came from Lehrer’s works, but now I have to scrap that plan and see if I can go to the source material because everything Lehrer wrote is now suspect.

And that ticks me off.

Lehrer is a brilliant young man and a talented writer. He has this rare ability to make science inviting and accessible to regular people like me, and I am heartbroken. I’m sad that, for whatever reason, Lehrer didn’t stick to his craft and that he let pride get in the way. He caved to the pressure that lied and told him he needed to be wildly fascinating at all times. I would have preferred him be a bit less interesting and been authentic, than for him to be a fascinating phoney.

Much like our athletes.

We are all vulnerable to making these kinds of mistakes, but we have to ask the tough questions and have to be willing to let others be #1, if that’s what it takes. I know there are authors who have become masters at juking the Amazon algorithms. Some have even rallied friends and family to buy books to artificially bump their novel up into the top slots so they can slap “best-selling” in front of their names.

I once had a writer who worked with me blatantly steal his blog posts from He enjoyed the adoration he “earned.” He loved the compliments about his “brilliant posts”, but once his writing sin was exposed to the light?

He lost everything.

Those of us closest to him were hurt and humiliated. This writer quickly lost what he’d falsely earned as well as what he might have justly earned. What was tragic about this writer was that he actually knew the material he was blogging about. There was no reason other than, perhaps, laziness, to justify him stealing the work of other writers, pictures and all. Now his life as a writer is effectively over. He’s contracted literary leprosy.

How to Be Real Winners

To really be victorious as people and as authors, I believe that we must learn to tune out the world. The world is this black hole of never ending need that will always demand more and more and more, and we must learn the discernment to shut it off.

When we start out writing, many of us just want to finish the book and then we’ll be happy. Then we just want an agent. Then we just want a book deal. Oh, then we’d really be happy if we just hit a best-seller list. Okay, well that was great but we’d really really this time for real be happy if we could just make the NY Times list, then #1 on the Times list, then we need to stay #1 on the Times or now we are a failure and our career is over. We’re a has-been hack.

See how even writers can fall into the same trap as cyclists and baseball players?

We have to maintain perspective and have the humility to let others be #1 or do better than us and be genuinely happy for them. This is one of the benefits of being a WANA. We win by helping others win. We don’t have all our “wins” in one basket of ego. Also, we are surrounded by a network of supportive friends who will eagerly give us validation we don’t “earn.” They will be there even if we are #15 or #5000.

WINNING! Actual Photo of World’s Slowest Swimmer

Winning (even as a writer) is a battle against our own nature. Winners are willing to get up early, stay up late and sacrifice, and do this day after day and year after year. We keep pressing even when we are criticized, even when the going is tough. We declare that any victory gained by cutting corners or sacrificing our integrity doesn’t count.

Real winners understand that our real character isn’t tested by being the best. Our character is tested when we lose, when we fail, when we fall short. How do we act? How do we treat others? How do we treat ourselves?

The real truth is this. When we can be happy for the success of others, when we can keep trying in the face of failure, when we can give ourselves grace to fall short and keep a positive attitude, that is the real victory.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel there is a lot more pressure to perform? Do you find it hard not to cut corners? Do you struggle and think that you have to be interesting all the time, especially with social media now being so important? Do you have any thoughts on the Lance Armstrong issue? Any opinions about the mess with Jonah Lehrer? Would an author fudging a quote or three affect you reading his books?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of August I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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    • Cathy Ostlere on August 24, 2012 at 11:46 am
    • Reply

    Great great post, Kristen. Except, that I’m the world’s slowest swimmer/writer! I like your comments on writers are athletes too.

  1. So that’s why I haven’t DONE ANYTHING for…ever. I didn’t feel particularly interesting or awesome. I felt that anything I wrote in my manuscript would have been terrible and anything I posted in my blog would have induced extreem yawnage.

    I thought I was saving people from the les- than-what-I-can-be me. But all I was doing was atrophying (I think that’s a word) my creative muscles by not even trying!

    I’m saddened by Lehrer too, yet I still want to believe in his genius. And Lance — I think he just got tired of the fight. I don’t know.

  2. I didn’t know about Jonah Lehrer, but that is pretty sucky but I see the Lance Armstrong thing totally differently. Having to stand up for yourself for years with vultures on your back would be a living nightmare, so guilty or innocent no doubt he is fed up. It really sounds like he might be guilty if loads of people in his team were caught too. It’s a tough call.

  3. Reblogged this on Sharon Lee Hughson's Information Outlet and commented:
    It really isn’t our place to be judge and jury over Lance Armstrong’s situation (although as human beings, we certainly enjoy judging others and finding them inferior, don’t we?), but I think Kristen Lamb has drawn some important lesson about building our own character from this headline news. Check it out and check out more of Kristen’s brilliant posts by following the links in my sidebar.

    1. Or just subscribe to Kristen here. You know, the original content. 😉

    • Cathy Ostlere on August 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm
    • Reply

    Lance may be fed up but it’s hard to imagine letting seven Tour de France wins and a bronze medal go down in flames without a fight. Clearly, he thinks he can’t win against a corrupt USADA or the strong case against him. Sad day. Watching him win those last few tours were summer highlights for me.

  4. I think the real pressure to perform is self-imposed. It is for me. I’ve reached an age (46.9, for the record, but I won’t tell you my weight – not in this public forum, at any rate; I would, in person) at which I don’t accept pressure from outside forces 95% of the time – and rapidly approaching 100%. I’ve no need or desire to keep up with the Joneses or Armstrongs. My self-imposed pressure is something I’m working on getting over, because it does encourage corner-cutting and I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel good.

    As for Lance… I listened to the announcement this morning on GMA and said a prayer for him. I don’t know for sure that he didn’t dope, but instinct indicates he didn’t. That he’s so beaten down from the “investigation” he feels the need to give in is just sad.

  5. Shame on you for writing an awesome post that pulled me away from my writing! ; )

    It’s so easy to blame others for our misfortunes. Individual responsibility is something I’ve tried to teach my daughters all their lives, and something I do my best to adhere to as well, but it can be a tough row to hoe. It’s very hard to admit when we’re wrong, or when we make a mistake. Some people never do.

    Adoration is a drug. Athletes, celebrities, and yes, even writers, get addicted to it just like those who ruin their lives with narcotics. We feel so good when we get that awesome review, or reach a sales milestone, and that makes us want more. Awareness of the addiction is the first step, the steps we take beyond that make us who we are.

  6. Great post, Kristen. It can be hard to stick it out for the long haul, but that’s how we get the most out of the experience. Cutting corners gets you to the end quicker, but you miss all those invaluable lessons you would have learned on the way.

    It’s still a temptation, and I get impatient, so thanks for this reminder! I need these kinds of posts to keep me grounded, but also inspired to be the best me.

  7. All true and well said.

    I have zero sympathy for writers with Lehrer’s success who burn down a castle (i.e. enormous success, income, prestige, etc.) that most people can only dream of seeing, let alone inhabiting.

    It’s called hubris and it’s fed by a toxic, insatiable ego. Somehow, people now seem to think that writing 24/7 is (or should be) dead easy, publishing is easy, huge and profitable success through writing is easy. It’s too easy to forget that some of the most respected writers (an ugly and much less discussed truth) were/are financially broke and struggling through much of their lives.

    I was thrilled this week with my new book mentioned in the NYT book review and then in the window of a popular NYC indie bookstore. And then, last night an agent working with me on what I hope(d) will be my next book told me: “You have no platform”.

    You really have to laugh sometimes at the absurdity of this specific greasy pole…

  8. I hate it, too, that Lehrer screwed up. I bought his book and really enjoyed it, and I hope we don’t have to suspect EVERYTHING he said. Geeze. You have to wonder about the thinking (if there was any) that convinces somebody like him, and Armstrong, and the two baseball players suspended recently, that they won’t get caught. The hardest part, I guess, is the more successful one becomes, the closer the scrutiny. I have linked your blog in mine. Keep up the good work.

  9. I agree that stealing is wrong. Stealing spotlight and accolades. Stealing a little fame at the expence of your character… I am proud to say my age if you ask me, my weight if you’re interested and any other bit about me that you want to know because I am one of those people who will always choose what is right over what is easy and I have nothing to hide. As for Armstrong only he knows the truth; and the truth always gets out. So if those people putting him under the microscope are wrong then they should be ashamed because they’ve already done irreperable damage to him. Even if no ones looking, YOU ARE and in the end that’s the one you have to live with.

  10. When I was a part of academe, plagiarism was akin to treason. The plagiarism blanket covered any and all inaccuracies in citation as well as source material. It is serious and errors make all of the author’s work suspect. The trust is gone.

    That said, let me offer this: there really are no ideas that are new. What is always new is how one individual writer takes an idea and makes it relevant to the world. We get a new perspective on an old idea. If you look at WANA 2.0 in this regard, what jumps out at you as suspect? As you well know, if it doesn’t sit well in your guts, out it goes.

    Another really fine essay, Kristen, definitely one of your best.


  11. Wow, what a great work of writing for the sake of writing. You have beautifully presented the comparison between writers and athletes. Although, we don’t earn any Olympic Medal, yet gifted with the power of imagination, creativity, and an analytical mind that can change the outlook of not only the Olympic medalists but the jury itself. Infact, I too aptly appreciate your thoughts regarding the digital age of publishing. Being working as a content writer, I too come across with several such instances like to work under pressure, to produce timely promotional articles and each time your new one must be better from the previous well. Still, I like my job and I know, so do the readers, because I truly believe that we writers are born to live with words.

  12. Who cares how slow you swim… as long as you don’t give up…. cuz you could drown… But seriously, I think you are on target when you say we have to tune out the world. We can’t let it overwhelm us. Our job as writers is to cultivate our own visions, to build it better, stronger, clearer and bring it to the world. And let the world judge our efforts, good, bad, or indifferent. And that is the razor’s edge we walk. Having to tune the world out long enough to create something new, then not really care what the world thinks when we are done. No matter so many writers go nutty. And that is the great benefit of the WANA way, we have found a merry band of friends who help us to stay sane when we hit the moments of craziness that arise from practicing this crazy art/sport. Thanks Kristen.

      • Cathy Ostlere on August 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm
      • Reply

      I like how you use the phrase: “razor’s edge”. It does feel like that …. I’m putting those words above my computer. Thanks!

  13. The timing of your post is eerie. Not only have I been drowning in a constant storm of distractions instead of working on my writing skills, I have also been thinking about a few recent instances in which I failed a test of my character. In one, I didn’t speak up and defend a friend from a verbal attack when I should have. In the other, I promised too much and was subsequently less than honest when I couldn’t follow through. You reminded me that I’m a work in progress, that mistakes and failures are a part of the journey and it’s important to learn from them and get back to work.

    I completely agree that my writing is a path to developing my character and I appreciate your eloquent words pointing out that it’s okay to have limits, that I cannot please everyone all the time no matter how much I feel I have to, and they’ll get over it. I also LOVE your athlete analogy, but that’s mostly because I don’t have a sporty bone in my body.

  14. Great post! “When we can be happy for the success of others, when we can keep trying in the face of failure, when we can give ourselves grace to fall short and keep a positive attitude, that is the real victory.” Exactly. Pride and envy is a nasty combination that far too many seem to fall prey to. It’s much harder to simply keep your head down and plow away at your art without concerning yourself with whether other people are doing “better” than you.

    With Lance Armstrong, there is nothing to cheer about. He did use his apparent ill-gotten gains for some good by advocating for more cancer research and for supporting victims of cancer. Not to mention that it just makes it seem that cycling is a sport filled with nothing but cheaters.

    1. I forgot to add that I, too, am a slow swimmer. 🙂

  15. Thank you for the way you presented this Kristen. Character is what matters, every time. But we are frail when it comes to our egos and the expectations we (or others) have of ourselves. I hope that we can strengthen our spines to stand tall and not bend towards the temptation to go the easy way.

    As school just started for my boys, we ended up in a conversation about “friends” who ask them to keep a secret. I told them, “No matter how well you think you keep a secret, someone ALWAYS finds out. Eventually EVERYBODY will know. Do you want that? It is better to stay out of whatever they are doing and let a parent or teacher know… especially if it’s dangerous.”

    The best plots of books are based upon uncovering secrets. The truth ALWAYS comes out. Best to side with the right the best you can and immediately admit when you’re wrong or at fault.

  16. The writer/athlete associate is something I think about frequently. I used to be a runner and while I had natural talent I had to work very hard, learn the craft, listen to my coach, and work closely with her to win. And it was all worth it, because when I ran “I felt God’s pleasure” (Chariots of Fire) and I feel that way about writing, too. You put it all so eloquently, it makes me tear up!

  17. Kristen – would it be ethical to have you cloned? Seriously, I wish there were many more like you speaking about the issues that matter in writing, but more importantly – in life. Keep writing. I’ll keep reading!

  18. I’m saddened by stories like Armstrong’s and Lehrer’s—particularly since both are talented people with so much to give. Their cutting corners takes away from the wonderfulness of their work, and often pushes them to the “lose” pile. I see the same thing in health and diet books. Though there are many terrific works, far too many contain marketable notions without a lick of truth. Some call it “faction.” (Blech.)

    When I was working as an actress, a number of Hollywood folk, including my trusted manager, told me my one “problem” was that I’m “too nice.” What they meant was, I wouldn’t take measures like sleeping my way to the top… One of many things I love about the writing world is the fact that honor and integrity seem more valued compared to the film industry. If that weren’t the case, people like Lance and Jonah wouldn’t be found out. If there’s a silver lining here, I suppose it’s that.

    Thanks for giving us so much to think about. And good luck with your book. It’s sure to be awesome. 🙂

    1. Whoops, correction. I should’ve said “if” Armstrong cut corners.

  19. Thanks for e-mailing me. I enjoy your wisdom. I am leaving a comment so that I can win to have 20 pages reviewed. I support Lance Armstrong. I float well. I am guilty of using seven words in a poem that were from another poet’s poem–without giving her credit! It was innocent enough-?-the poem took flight and then I didn’t know how to correct the sin. They want my degree back…not that I received a degree but they’d have it, if I had graduated. Please excuse my confessional. Now, the world knows.

  20. Thank you for a terrific and inspiring post. I first read your blog during the fall-out from the plagiarizer, and have been a committed WANA follower (albeit a lurker) since. I am a social worker by day, and we practice according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics – and are sanctioned by NASW when we fail to follow it. Perhaps writers would benefit from a Code of Ethics too?

  21. Great post – but I’m really angry about Lance Armstrong. What happened to innocent until proven guilty in this nation. There is no way to prove you’ve never done something like that and that’s why the burden of proof is on the accuser. Who can blame the guy? Imagine a situation so distasteful, so humiliating, so expensive that you’d be willing to walk away from everything you’ve accomplished in your life just to make it stop.

    1. I agree and funny I thought the same thing, “What happened to innocent until proven guilty?” I also don’t understand how he can keep being charged over and over and why it isn’t falling under the rules of double jeopardy. I haven’t spent too much time reading about this, but it is sad either way. I can appreciate Lance’s want to just walk away. I was once accused of something I didn’t do and that was so out of character it was just laughable, but I couldn’t win and I had to walk away because there was just no fight left in me. So I understand that side, too.

      1. The main problem is that he’s not being tried in a court of law, but by a non-profit government-sanctioned committee and in the media. Talk about not being able to win…

        1. I follow Lance Armstrong’s career too, and feel the same way. Our competitive nature loves to tear down a hero.

            • Debbie Johansson on August 24, 2012 at 7:43 pm

            Well said! Innocent until proven guilty. And with a something like a 2% chance of surviving testicular cancer, he’ll always be a hero in my book!

  22. Kristen: I don’t swim–afraid to put my head under the water after nearly drowning as a kid. But I’m not afraid to “put myself out there” and I’m not afraid to fail. I’ve been writing for publication for more than 50 years with limited success but I’m still doing it….all my own words and on my own time. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I happily promote other’s books, blogs, articles, websites, etc. If someone is successful, that helps to pave the way for me.

    • christinekling on August 24, 2012 at 1:19 pm
    • Reply

    Brilliant blog that brings up issues I think about often. On the writer/athlete association, I think more of the fable of the tortoise and the hare. I am the tortoise when it comes to writing – but I comfort myself with the thought that they live way longer than rabbits.

    On the success at all costs issue, I am reminded of the Stephen Leather brouhaha going on amongst the British thriller writers, and Leather’s admission that he wrote glowing reviews for his own books using fake social media identities otherwise called “sock puppets.” That’s just plain creepy. If you have to do that, it’s like admitting that the books are not good enough to get good reviews on their own. If it takes a crutch like fake reviews or doping to win, won’t it turn that victory from sweet to bitter?

  23. KLamb:

    I love this: “We all have a finite amount of awesome.”

    Lately, I’ve been feeling awesome-lite. For a lot of reasons. I’ve been wondering if I have the mettle, the stuff that writers are made of. I’m confused because my “brand” is basically happy, hot teacher with a side order of red hot mess.” But I want to be able to write about more. I’m feeling stymied and censored. And it’s carrying over into my book and into real life, too. There are so many amazing writers in the blogosphere — which is awesome!


    I thought I’d have published more by now. I had these expectations. So thank you for reminding me to just keep going — or even repost something really old. That it’s okay to get a little stuck, but that I have to fight my way through it instead of going dark.

  24. One of my favorite things about Michael Perry, the author of the book I’m reading now, is that on his website, he actually has a themed column for any mistakes that readers find and fesses up. It’s not that there are ton of them, but he gracefully apologizes if he wrote an incorrect date or writes about his great-grandfather, then refers to grandfather in the next paragraph by accident. It’s tiny stuff, but he uses it to showcase that yah, he’s fallible, and all the editing in the world can still miss stuff, but he’ll always post anything the readers find.

    I just think that’s a cool attitude to deal with it. But I’ve heard him on the radio for interviews and he is an amazingly humble guy. I’m a big fan of his work, but of him too! Excited to be working with him shortly for a blog interview!

    • Laurie L Young on August 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm
    • Reply

    I was going to comment anyway, before I got to the part about the contest. This is a brilliant essay and I love comparing writers to athletes. We have to train just as hard and practice and compete, we often break a sweat. Our main advantage is that we get to eat whatever we want, and our bodies are . . . well never mind about that, just look at the perfect sentence I made!

    I think you make a great point about being willing to let someone else be #1. Although, I feel the push to be #1 is what makes a lot of great #2’s, 3’s, 4’s, etc. We have to strive to be the best to even be good.

    You make so many good points, I could single out every one of them, but I won’t. I just want to thank you for posting a thought-provoking and career-confirming start to my day.

  25. Kristen, you shined the light right where it needed to be! Sportswriter Grantland Rice famously posted in his blog (poem) in 1908 that we will finally be judged “not that you won or lost – but how you played the game.” When we remember to attend to the creative, athletic, or mundane moment, the far-off goal shrinks and the joy and honor of the game can be fully appreciated.
    Let’s hope none of us writes miserably for years, betting that book-selling success will at last make it all worthwhile. Life has a habit of not cooperating. “if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.” Thanks for the reminder!

  26. Its a shame that for the price of fame, glory, and trying to appease our ego that we will compromise our virtues and beliefs to end up losing the integrity of our pursuit for excellence and prosperity. I remember watching the lifeclass episode with Oprah interviewing again the author that had plagiarized most of his memoirs when she presented him on her show years back. She recalled how angry and prideful she was at this man making a mockery out of her show by lying about his books. Well, as they were making amends, the author stated that he had such a terrible ordeal after he was exposed for lying in his memoirs and how it is taking time to rebuild his writing career back together. As a writer, you must stay true to who you are and not fall victim to the quickest way to get on the bestseller’s list. Sometimes, achieving milestones and mini-successes are better because the process of reaching your goals is so much more rewarding and helps you endure for the long haul as you wait for your writing breakthroughs. As least you will have your soul and integrity in tact as a writer.

  27. Yes, Lance Armstrong is innocent until proven guilty. But what he’s doing with the USADA is refusing to even mount a defense. He has plenty of money and power to defend himself. It looks like the real reason Armstrong is walking away is not because the charges are so ridiculous, but because they will be so damning.

    “So why did the man who never ducks a fight run away this time? I believe it’s because, for the first time ever, his best friend in cycling didn’t have his back. As Juliet Macur explained in the New York Times last month, George Hincapie was Armstrong’s most valued teammate and confidant, a man the seven-time Tour de France champion has described as “loyal” and his “best bro in the peloton.” Unlike Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, Hincapie is a man who everyone in cycling believes. He is seen as honest, trustworthy, a man who does not have any scores to settle. And he was, all sources indicate, going to testify against Armstrong at the USADA hearing.”

  28. Very true. Just what I needed to hear. Especially the getting up early, staying up late, foregoing TV part of the post.

  29. Excellent post, Kristen. I’m devastated about the news. To find out someone, who ispired you, may be a cheat is heart-breaking. I don’t judge Armstrong though, the physical strain the sportsmen of this caliber have may really affect the whole physiology, pain perception ,etc. by the way, BBC says they’ve taken the Tour de France titles from him already The only thing annoys me about him is that : if he really took the drugs deliberately – he stole the victory from other and honest competitors.
    I think the story with Lehrer is overblown, he’s just made up some quotes by Bob Dylan, this could be just a creative pun (Robert Asprin made up a lot of epigraphs in his novels as famous people’s quotes, but it was clearly they’re made up) he could have done it deliberately to get some scandalous publicity, I don’t know why really. His books don’t really need that as his writing and the factual base are both brilliant and he does give the references, which are easy to check out. I think his departure from NYorker is an overreaction, but maybe your suspicion is right and he made up more stuff.
    Generally, I don’t judge people, especially when the case is like Armstrong and Lehrer, for they clearly regret about their mis-deeds ( is there such a word?)

  30. I love this statement of yours,Kristen – “…to tune out the world.” Maybe we don’t do that enough, because we are becoming conditioned to seek approval and ‘likes’.
    Ironic for us writers, I think, when all the greats were individuals who owned their unique quality. Not that it wasn’t lonely and painful… but then they wrote about all that too.
    I’m starting to long for more face to face interaction, like the writers’ salons a hundred years ago. We’re in this age now where our human-ness hasn’t adjusted to technology’s quirks. We can use it and manipulate it, but we haven’t figured out yet how to improve our interactions with others through it.
    But I’m trying.

  31. Fantastic post, Kristen! The second I started to see some success as a writer all of those competitive demons started to come out as well. I kept wanting more and more and more … and then it got very hard for me to write. That was just tragic! It’s taken a lot of soul-searching and forbidding myself from reading reviews or checking my numbers every hour to remember that I write because I love to write AND THAT’S IT. I suspect I’m not the only one fighting this battle and that it’s going to keep coming up again and again.

    Also, sports has turned into entertainment these days. SO many atheletes are guilty of doping. It’s fun to watch them do their thing, but I take all of the records with a grain of salt.

  32. My husband and I are big Tour fans and since my husband had thyroid cancer (gone now, along with his thyroid, both, hopefully forever), he really appreciates the Live Strong things Lance does. And yes, we believe in innocent until proven guilty. That being said, since so many top level cyclists have tested positive for drugs, it’s hard to believe he could win that often and the decisively without using. From what I’ve heard and read, he didn’t say he didn’t use, he always said “They never found anything.” We don’t know for sure and that’s too bad.

    I’ll always remember a study I read about years ago where they asked athletes if they could take something that would make them the best in the world at whatever they were doing, but would kill them in a few years, if they would take it. And most of them said yes.

    I’m sorry to say I’m not up on the the Lehrer story, but it would be difficult to know what you could believe. It’s a bit like a friend or spouse who gets caught doing “just a couple of things” wrong or that go behind your back. You might forgive, but it’s difficult to re-build trust!!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog.

    • Louis Burklow on August 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm
    • Reply

    In the past, I’ve felt this sense of being let down by both athletes and writers. In particular, the betting scandal that ended Pete Rose’s baseball career and the plagiarism scandal that snared one of my favorite historians, Stephen Ambrose, at the end of his life. With Lance Armstrong, I am inclined to agree with those that argue if he was innocent he would never have given up this fight but I cannot know that for certain.

    What I’ve come to realize is that you can’t put people up on a pedestal, especially ones you do not know personally. They have flaws and temptations just like we do, so we don’t expect them to behave in a morally superior way. All we can do is make ourselves a work in progress, one that moves toward general improvement.

  33. Let me try some devil’s advocacy. is the hysteria about drugs warranted? One uses diets and training to boost performance; why not substances? If they ultimately destroy the athlete, that’s his choice? The objective is to get the human machine to operate to maximum potential?
    Relate that to writing and plagiarism. If someone rises to fame by pinching material, are they not showing better skill at marketing it than the original producer? Consider that most of the ‘greats’ of classical music fame quite shamelessly used swiped tunes and ideas from other composers in their works.
    Having said all that, a lament: why is it that almost every single statue of excellence these days turns out to have feet of clay?

  34. This post really spoke to me. Thank you, Kristen. Back when my knees were young, I used to run competitively. So I can relate to the athletic analogy. At the end of the day, and in our heart of hearts, we have to live with our choices. Success is hollow and meaningless if we cheat to get it.

  35. Thank you for sharing – fantastic post. The reason why some authors feel the need to cheat, I suspect, is that those people validate their sense of self-worth with their success. Everybody does, of course, to some extent – but there are some who, probably via low general esteem, seem to pivot their sense of self around it. And suddenly all kinds of behaviours become ‘acceptable’ which, if they only stood back and looked hard at what they were doing, actually are disgraceful – in academia, it emerges as intellectual bullying. Commercially, as Caitlin points out above, it becomes a toxic ego. The mind-set between some athletes and some authors in this sense, as you point out, is the same.

    Still, those of us who get ahead honestly at least have the knowledge that we have done it properly and cleanly. And those virtues are, I think always going to be rewarded, including by the wider public. Just as those who transgress will be disgraced by the popular voice.

    We had an incident in New Zealand over the Olympics that highights the point. Our double-gold medallist Valerie Adams was beaten for shot-put gold by a Belorussian drug cheat. The Belorussian was exposed and disgraced. Adams got the gold. The public response along the way? Adams – who has done it all by clean, hard work, dedication and sacrifice – had 100% of the public behind her, while the Belorussian drug cheat became New Zealand’s most hated person in the world, at least last week.

    • Debbie Johansson on August 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm
    • Reply

    Great post Kristen. I like the term ‘contracted literary leprosy’. I don’t understand why anybody would want that! 🙂

  36. Great post, Kristen. I am also a slow swimmer. I dog-paddle, mostly. And even though I’m a writer, I’m a slow reader. I tend to absorb things slowly. My A.D.D. tends to get in the way. Except when I’m writing. Funny how that works. But I was never an athlete. (Does cheerleading count?) I admire athletes, always wishing I could run, jump, and swim like the pros. I also admire character and class, whether it be an athlete or a writer, and I’m always sad when character comes into question. I was taught humility, believing pride goes before the fall. Thank you, Kristen, for making us take a step back, enjoy the journey, as well as whatever measure of success we are blessed with.

  37. I was taught by my father that I should do things right the first time. If I make a mistake to fix it right away. He taught me an incredible work ethic and I try to live by it. Being a writer is hard work. Almost as hard as raising seven children. Harder than raising children in some ways. The pressure to publish, to have a book ready, to have it out to agents… The personal desire to have my work be read and to bring in money for our struggling family all affects my work some days. I have two and a half novels I am working on and one that is years in the work is getting closer and closer to when I will be comfortable putting it out into the world but I am doing it in as responsible and honest a way I know how. If you are going to make things up and claim them to be truth or cut corners or take a drug to enhance your performance at least own up to it from the start. If it is against the rules then part of the challenge is succeeding within the parameters. Being the best is not as important as being your own best. Good luck to all you writers out there working hard.

  38. Writers absolutely are athletes too. The more words we write in one week, the more we are able to write in the following week.

    I feel horrible for you that you have to change much of your research for your book. That would absolutely stink.

  39. Success without character is like a pool without water.

    • bohemianspiritedmom on August 24, 2012 at 11:27 pm
    • Reply

    Great post! Can’t wait to see the movie The Words

  40. Reblogged this on Life, the universe and poetry. and commented:
    Very thought provoking. And worth reading simply for the line ‘The Same Pants They Got Mad In, They Can Get Glad In’

    • Kim Griffin on August 25, 2012 at 7:38 am
    • Reply

    I will say that I wish my process of writing was faster, but I am not tempted in the least to cut corners. I want my work and everything I do to be 100% me ~ pass or fail.

    A corner cut recently that really bugged me was this ~ my husband is going to college at night and he took a class in which the teacher graded on a curve. A curve. In my eyes, that’s cheating ~ taking a short cut to a better grade and class average overall. It takes away from the students who bust their butts to earn a good grade. If you pass, you pass ~ if you fail, you fail. That’s the way it should be in all aspects of life.

    About Lance Armstrong ~ I do not believe that he was doping. I think it’s shameful that he has been forced to defend himself for as long as he has and I completely understand him throwing his hands up in disgust. Sure, he lost the titles in the end ~ but he earned them and he knows that he earned them fair and square (I believe) and his family knows that and that’s all that really matters in the end. It’s sad that he decided to stop defending himself, but sometimes you’ve just gotta say ~ enough is enough.

    Great post!

    • akasarahmadison on August 25, 2012 at 8:12 am
    • Reply

    I just want to say I’ve been following your blog (haphazardly, I’ll admit) for a while now. I only recently purchased your books (having been fighting your advice for some time, hey, I’m nothing if not determined!) and as I read them, I see that I have so much to do, so much to fix. I’m slowly getting there but at times I’ve been frustrated by the glacial progress I’m making on such things, in addition to writing while managing a full time job.

    This post helped me see I don’t necessarily have to have the fastest time. I just need to make it to the other side of the pool! Thanks!

  41. This is an excellent post. I appreciate the connection you’ve made between writers and athletes. I feel like over the last two months (since starting my blog that I’ve been in training. I don’t know where my training will lead but I ‘work out’ everyday and I can feel my writing stamina expanding. I’m also learning that writing isn’t about the fame or fortune its about the process. Thank you for your writing.

  42. Hi, Kristen. I really would like your take on something. I know that it is about community, but I am confused about where support lines should be drawn (if they should). If there are liking, tagging and whatnot parties, do they help, or not? It makes marketing sense to have a free Kindle version now and then, but is it really helpful to have people who really aren’t interested in your genre to like and tag books and fan pages? Should you provide reviews on books that you would normally not read? It’s difficult to not participate when you have a supportive group, but that can sometimes make me feel like I’m at a Saturday night underage party offering liquor. (I didn’t party in my teens, so maybe this is a social skill I am lacking)!

  43. Reblogged this on Whimsically Yours.

  44. Love the picture of the world’s slowest swimmer. What an inspiring smile she has. It is obvious she loves what she does, and the bottom line for all of us, at least in my opinion, is that we must love what we are doing and not obsess about winning.

  45. Fantastic post! To most of us, winning is EVERYTHING and the stakes are worth any sacrifice, it seems. I hope I can win as an author without sacrficing my integrity.

  46. By the way, consider the link between our blogs established!

    • Brianna Soloski on August 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm
    • Reply

    For me, the self-induced pressure is much more than that induced by my peers. My friends and family don’t much care if I write or not. But because it’s what I’ve chosen to do with my life, if I don’t do it, I’ve failed. I don’t want to fail, but I also won’t ruin my life to succeed. If I’m never a NY Times bestseller, so be it. Let Jodi Picoult and Stephen King have the fame. I’ll be happy to sell one book.

  47. All the points you make about what makes a writer a true winner are valid. Personally, what keeps me grounded and makes me feel like a winner is when I can look at my daughter and know I have been a role model for her and have been the kind of person she can be proud of. I tend to tread the straight and narrow anyway, but knowing I have those Toddler eyes watching me, wanting to emulate me–that’s the highest standard I can imagine.

  48. Reblogged this on Jackie Jones and commented:
    I wanted to share Kristen’s post because it’s one of those great reminders that help keep us on the right track, regardless of the profession we pursue. As it relates to social media, I admit to sometimes worrying about what I submit to the virtual world (will it be well-received, etc), but, I realise that some of our hang-ups must first be destroyed in the real world, before we can effectively move forward. In addition, we aren’t in a competition against each other, we all have a unique voice, and helping others in the end, benefits everyone.

    Thanks again Kristen for a wonderful post.

  49. Reblogged and commented: I wanted to share Kristen’s post because it’s one of those great reminders that helps keep us on the right track, regardless of the profession we pursue. As it relates to social media, I admit to sometimes worrying about what I submit to the virtual world (will it be well-received, etc), but, I realise that some of our hang-ups must first be destroyed in the real world, before we can effectively move forward. In addition, we aren’t in a competition against each other, we all have a unique voice, and helping others in the end, benefits everyone. Thanks again Kristen for a wonderful post.

  50. I loved Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine book (Lance, well, the company you keep tells a lot)… How could Jonah have made up those quotes from Dylan… Unimaginable… But sadly true.

    1. What I find interesting is (to me) that wasn’t even the best part of the book. The Dylan section was okay, but not the best writing. Sad that he sank his career and it wasn’t even the strongest part of his work (in my POV).

  51. As a history teacher I keep up with scandals of poor research/plagiarism and have been amazed at how a number of historians have got caught in recent years. Big time names too. I just can’t believe that anyone would want to take such a risk and be so dishonest let alone think they will actually get away with it. It must be all about pressure which is sad, but as you say that’s no excuse and it shocks us, especially the most loyal readers, when these misdeeds are revealed.

  52. I found this post really interesting. As much as I struggle with keeping up my blog, it never occured to me to steal my content. I can’t imagine taking pride in something I didn’t work for. I can’t really judge though since I have no idea if there might be some breaking point in me where I would finally do something like that. I honestly don’t believe there is.

    • ABE on August 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm
    • Reply

    Don’t know what to believe. My brain always sees both (or many) sides to a question. The thought came up: does anyone really know the stress involved in fighting a major charge? The personal cost, the financial cost? A friend has gone through a legal nightmare, with the full power of the state against her. Problem is, they are using this power to hide their own bad actions and choices, because if they admitted what they had done, their jobs will be at stake, their heads will roll. She, an ordinary citizen, simply doesn’t have the money to pay the attorney and the investigators to prove their bad faith, and the stress has been enormous. The state’s resources are effectively infinite against a private citizen, regardless of what the TV dramas claim.

    I hope ‘the truth’ about Armstrong comes out , whatever it is. I don’t regard ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as true, though, because it only means legal innocence, not actual innocence, and often means merely ‘unproven.’ Since many murders are committed with only the victim and the criminal present, many of the murderers are going to stay unproven, if they’re careful. Especially when they don’t press their luck.

    I am acutely aware of small sins in the past – they aren’t worth the present pain. This is called having a conscience, formed as you go through life.

    I would be mortified if any part of my success (eventual) were due to stealing another’s work: somebody might find out, and then the success would turn to ashes. Worst of all, I would know.

  53. Great blog post, Kristen. Here is a simple question… If Lance Armstrong used performance drugs to become the best in the world, would we know him at all if he hadn’t used them? Could he have won without them? If not, this whole conversation would be a moot point… nobody remembers who came in second!

    1. Yes, but if he used drugs to achieve this, then he really isn’t the best because he isn’t competing on level ground. The other athletes didn’t use drugs and so , therefore, the number one slot has been effectively stolen. That’s like using roller blades to win the Boston Marathon and then claiming you are the fastest runner in the world because you were faster than the other competitors who actually ran the entire race.

      And sure he will always be remembered as #1, but it will forever be tainted by his “alleged” ill deeds. Granted there is no “proof” but there are pictures of him in places he shouldn’t be. As my grandmother always said, “Never do anything you have to explain.”

  54. Wow, thank you for that. I start to feel very alone in my refusal to join the “like” chains and take other shortcuts towards indie publishing “success.” It pains me to watch my sales languish while others’ sales pass me by and I start wonder if I’m just shooting myself in the foot for no reason. And yet I know how I’ll feel if I go down that slippery slope.

    Please feel free to take a day off and repost this article periodically to remind us all. 🙂

  55. Wonderful post and so many great responses. In the athlete/writer comparison, writers seem to be more like gymnasts or skaters, no absolute best time or highest jump to measure us. And when we send our little words out into the world, we hope and hope to get good scores from the judges…our readers.

    Sometime when I worry that not everyone is going to like what I do, I remind myself that Charlotte Bronte didn’t like Jane Austen’s books, and Mark Twain slammed Louisa May Alcott and James Fennimore Cooper.

    Whenever athletes or writers cheat to win approval, they only cheat themselves. Better to be true and take the bitter with the sweet.

  56. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Kristen. I love the challenge to think about our own characters. One of the things I love most about the romance genre is that the heroines are often impeccably moral. There are lessons to be learned from women who will sacrifice just about anything to do what’s right.

  57. I don’t know if it is my good Catholic upbringing or just the way I was made, but it wouldn’t even occur to me to cheat or steal. How amazing that the blogger stole “Cracked” blog posts and Lehrer “created” quotes.The only good result is in being busted, they become poster children for what not to do…
    I am an athlete although on a very small scale and have equated what I do to running a race. One thing I have always said is…. “You can’t cross the finish line without running the race.” I plan to be huffing, puffing, and sweating bullets when I finish mine.

  58. Great how lessons from the world of sports can be applied to writing.

    My own rule is similar. Never EVER put anything in writing (especially on the internet, which is absolutely FOREVER) that might come back and bite you in the ass. This includes plagiarism, libel, and creative quoting.

    To paraphrase a well-known ad campaign, Just DON’T do it.

  59. So much brilliance here.

    Finite awesomeness is a concept that, if you admit to it, your everyday becomes much easier. I know when I don’t have it. On those days, I can appreciate where I am all the same. And hope for a resurgence tomorrow.

    I’d rather fail with my own stuff than succeed with someone else’s.

    Good stuff, KL.

  60. ‘I believe my journey as a writer has been a lot less about developing my talent and far more about developing my character.’

    Excellent post–how important it is to keep ourselves grounded, always consider our integrity and never forget that sharing is better than winning. Thanks for sharing.

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