Well, the Olympic torch has certainly caused a stir throughout Scotland. It passed through our town on Thursday and as I waited in glorious sunshine (yes, really!), one amongst hundreds, I found myself contemplating its symbolism.Not only is the flame travelling through the country, honouring those who have made a significant contribution to their community or nation in some way, drawing crowds wherever it goes, but other disciplines – businesses, churches, teachers – have capitalised on the occasion.
Wayside pulpits quote: ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’ Ministers have told parables of the importance of training, striving for perfection, persevering, of goals and objectives, prizes and medals. School teachers have taught their students similar lessons for life, bringing them out onto the streets to witness this historical spectacle.
My mind though has also been drawing parallels with writing. The flame carrier (author) is the focus of attention, but just look at the team running alongside (the editor, the publisher, the bookseller.) They display stamina, endurance and athleticism too, often with precious little recognition. How many cheered them? How many even noticed them?Even the torch bearer’s moment in the limelight is short lived (books rarely last long on the bestselling list).The excitement and encouragement of the public (readers) are both invigorating and confirming for the principal players. The atmosphere of friendly support amongst the police (critics), waving and chatting to the crowds …and the energetic endorsement from the sponsors (reviewers) …demonstrates that they too are human, applauding and enjoying the whole enterprise, caught up in the prevailing enthusiasm.
And the success or otherwise of the total process (publication and distribution) depends on careful pacing and precise timing. If the public aren’t well informed (marketing) they won’t know when or where the torch is coming to their area. There will be no cheering crowds (buyers).
My own reaction to this Olympic phenomenon has surprised me. The history, the pageantry, the atmosphere, have been unexpectedly stirring and moving. And for me a particularly poignant moment was when a lady who received a new kidney sixteen years ago, carried the torch up onto Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade on Wednesday evening and lit the Olympic cauldron. Lesley Forrest, MBE, who has won a number of medals in both the British and World Transplant Games, spoke simply but powerfully of the remarkable gift of life she’d been given, and of how she is committed to making every day count – particularly timely and relevant for me at the moment with my current novel being about organ donation. I only hope that when it comes out, my message too will echo her words: this is a special gift; it can transform lives. And that more people sign up.
Here endeth the lesson!