Winning Words

Winning Words

When I was young, during the summer, a friend and I played tennis nearly every day, and nearly every day he beat me. We were equally skilled, there was no advantage in equipment, and the games and sets we played often came down to the wire. Yet I would invariably lose a key point, pound an easy shot into the net, double fault, hit wide or long. Finally, one day, I decided I had enough losing. I was determined that when the crucial moment came in the set to claim victory, I would not falter. Of course, I did. But soon after I did win a match, and then another, until our rivalry became more even, and, for me, more satisfying, not because I enjoyed a win now and then, but I was open to the idea. Which, I believe, is half the battle – the thought that losing is a choice, just as winning is.

Writing also often feels like a competition – pitting you against your characters, life pressures (job, family responsibilities), even other authors who you are trying to match or best. But ultimately it is a test of will that decides if you will win or not – in this case, finish a story, collection, memoir or novel. Here are some further thoughts on winning to consider whenever you take to the keyboard or put pen in hand.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

“One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.” ~ Vince Lombardi

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.” ~ George Orwell

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.” ~ Ross Perot

“I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win. I said that if I was playing third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.” ~ Leo Durocher

“Winning starts with beginning.” ~ Robert H. Schuller

“Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.” ~ Denis Waitley

“A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning.” ~ Billie Jean King

“The future author is one who discovers that language, the exploration and manipulation of the resources of language, will serve him in winning through to his way.” ~ Thornton Wilder

John McCaffrey’s stories, essays and reviews have been widely published and anthologized. He teaches creative writing and helps edit KGBBAR.LIT Contact him at or