Several of the Olympic teams are training at the university sports centre here in Bath. I've been going for my lunchtime swim and marvelling at the speed of the swimmers in lanes 5-8 compared to those in 1-4 (especially 1 - the slow lane, where I pootle up and down for 30 minutes). They swim fast!
Yesterday I asked the life guard exactly which team it was in training. 'It's the swimming club' she said.
'Not the Olympic team? Not the British team? Not the county team, not even the university team?' I said, clinging to my hopes that I was sharing the same chlorine as an elite athlete.
She smiled at my ignorance. 'The elite athletes come in at 5am for training, then again in the evening. They do about 4-5 hours a day in the pool, and then land-based training on top.'
Which explains in part why I'll never be much of a swimmer. 30 minutes is one thing, 4-5 hours is quite another, especially at 5 in the morning.
On the other hand, it perhaps explains why I'm a writer. Make that 4-5 hours a day of writing, and reading on top, and I'm definitely at the Olympic writing level of training. I suspect that if you want to compete on a serious level at anything - local politics, cake decoration, dog breeding - you have to consistently put the hours in.
But if it's your passion, then you don't mind the hours spent on it. You find the time. You squeeze every minute you can to write in. When not able to write, you think about writing. When relaxing, you read a book and part of you works out what the author has done and why. If you want to write at a consistent publishable level then you have to put those hours in. Simple as that.
And the great thing about writing is that it's available at all levels. Paddling up and down the pool a couple of times a week won't win me any races, but writing a little every now and then might well produce a story that will win a competition or get published in a magazine. And it will be fun and interesting along the way. Going to a weekly writing class or critique group or even taking an MA won't guarantee a publishing contract, but it's a first step along the way.
Write a little, write a lot - the Writing Olympics are open to every one. The only thing it won't do is help you lose weight and get fit but then, you can't have everything.