I hear momentum often mentioned outside of physics. I haven't seen it today but I expect to see headlines that Newt Gingrich is picking up momentum ahead of Iowa.
Talks gain a lot of momentum. Talks with Putin are gaining momentum. Contract negotiations often gain momentum, and sports contract negotiations are often said to gain and lose momentum.
Sports in general have a lot of momentum issues. When there's a shift in energy during a football game, you often hear announcers and observers, schooled to utter these things, say that one team has seized momentum, another has lost momentum, or that there has been a momentum shift.
Sports writers are already talking about 2012 for some teams. There's talk of winning out and building momentum for next year. Detroit, Buffalo and Cleveland were all teams that built momentum last year and were expecting great things this year.
Detroit and Buffalo started out well, surprising many. Detroit was the bigger story. As a team that entered the record books by going without a win in 2008, 0-16, they went 6-10 last year and came out 5-0 this year. It wasn't a temendous surprise; they'd shown winning signs when their young quarterback was healthy. Now that he was, they won.
Buffalo's start was less impressive. Buffalo, for whatever reason, often starts strong and then fades. So it came to pass in this year, once again. They had put it all together and now, the magic is gone, taking the momentum with them. They might be able to put together a closing winning streak and build momentum for next year. I think the problem is sustaining the momentum throughout the entire season.
Cleveland never get momentum going. Their defense was pretty good but their running back, Peyton Hillis, was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Now he's back and they're talking about building momentum for 2012.
Don Banks mentions momentum when he talks about Seattle. They've won a few games and the team has come together. They're gaining momentum for next year.
I believe thinking and writing have momentum. I've experienced both, magic times when my thinking is sharpened and I work harder and faster. The thing about momentum is that it has its own momentum. When you feel the momentum behind you, you ride the wave and keep going.
When it happens in writing, you blaze from project to project, page to page, chapter to chapter, story to story. It becomes self-sustaining; you feel the momentum and you don't want to stop.
But life often troubles you to stop. Sometimes, in the deepest scenes, momentum becomes fragile as new ice. You can see its thinness and now what will happen if it's disrupted. The smallest matter, a knock on the door, the telephone ringing, a crashing computer program, a reminder being called out, an innocent question, like, "What do you want for dinner," can crash it.
Other times the momentum is strong in you no matter what. This happens to me most often when the story has become most vividly realized in my mind. I'm not so much as creating and thinking as I am watching, listening, and transcribing.
And I think...I can create my own momentum. I think that's what the best teams do in football. They flatten emotions and counsel discipline, patience and focus.
Such is true in auto-racing. Formula 1's triple world driving champion, Sir John Young 'Jackie' Stewart, realized that he could develop and seize momentum. A true thinkingdriver, observing and applying, he first came to understand how to run a fast qualifying lap, what he had to do, emotionally, physically and intellectually, to prepare himself to run all out banzai runs that take him to the edge without letting him slide over. He became a great qualifier, consistently putting his car on the grid's front end.
But Jackie thought about it and took it a step further. He applied his qualifying thinking and approach to the race's first five laps. This was contrary to most drivers' skills, styles and abilities. The car is heaviest at the race's start so slinging it around in qualifying style challenges car control skills, and back then, the tires were cold and slick. That heaviness affects balance, breaking, acceleration, and top speed, while cold tires meant last grip. The combination unsettled drivers. Most concentrated on making a good start, which meant keeping out of trouble, settling into a rythm, and feeling the car out.
That's where the thinking writer can imitate Jackie. Most of us feel best when we're writing a stream of dizzying creativity. Those moments deliver a glorious high. It's what keeps most of us going, reaching again for that high.
But we can be like Sir Jackie.Observe yourself. Capture the high's feeling. Harness it again and again even as the writing sometimes becomes a slog, your fingers lose their way on the keyboard, you can't find the groove, or worse, you must...shudder...edit and revise.
I think that's what the best writers have, the understanding and self-confidence to know what momentum feels like, and how to re-create it again and again -- like magic -- and carry it forward.
Find it. Feel it. Practice it. Discipline, focus, patience. Look for it in your next piece of writing, carry it forward, and build your own momentum.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com