Scrounging around for something to write about, I scrambled to the Two Writing Teachers blog with the sense that the weekly quote might offer inspiration I needed. Now, I'm primed to sow more Joyce Carol Oates. After all, don't her words work nicely as a Mad Lib? "First requirement of the _____ is the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Second... the wish to do so." That blank just needs a noun ending in -er. To become awesome at anything demands both sustained focus and desire.
I saw numerous examples of that this past weekend, when my first season volunteering to coach a high-school Ultimate Frisbee team culminated at the state tournament. Sure, focus for these teen teammates wavered on occasion. All of them, though, spent big chunks of two days playing the most Frisbee in their young lives to date. ("We have another game?" they kept asking incredulously.) I marveled meanwhile at how the simple task of playing again and again led to incremental improvements. Stilted offense started sometimes to flow. Zone defense that stymied us on Saturday turned slightly crack-able on Sunday, even versus stiffening winds. Players whose hands proved unreliable gradually found confidence to latch onto what my one-time college teammate lovingly dubbed the Frisbee: a flying handle. "It wants to be caught," he would tell anyone who would listen -- an invitation I find myself repeating lately.
No matter the goal you're after nor what you aim to master... Concentrate and wish; wish and concentrate. Putting in the time matters, but Oates's double-barreled mindset matters more.