I write for a living. Have done, in one way or another, for more than 30 years.
Yet there are days when I can barely string two words together. Other days where they flow freely enough but sit like beads on a cheap necklace.
And other days, rare days, when I surprise even my biggest critic.
I can’t imagine how I’d write with the added pressure of a global audience, immediate and remote, critiquing my performance. My every syllable on the page, my every word uttered post script, my every move in literary victory and defeat.
I’m not sure I’d rise to an occasion like that.
As the curtain falls on another Olympics, Australia is putting in a gold medal performance in finger pointing.
The scapegoats are being lined up. The Winning Edge program, the swimming team, the psychological support, the preparation, the taper, the money.
Perhaps what’s missing from the equation is a bit of perspective.
In the words of our chef de mission Kitty Chiller, if Rio has proved anything it is that Olympic medals are hard to come by. And becoming harder.
We set ourselves a target of a top five finish at Rio, the equivalent of 17 gold medals. That looks ridiculously ambitious in hindsight. And a tad arrogant.
It left no room for an off day. It underestimated the hopes and capabilities of other nations, the increasing depth of Olympic competition.
The sight of Japan’s tiny-shorted relay team giving Usain Bolt a run for his money was just one of many highlighting the emergence of new sporting nations.
Though I may never be able to reconcile Great Britain (Great Britain?!) finishing second on the medal tally, we can not escape the increasing diversity of the Olympic playing field. Nor should we want to.
Singapore, Vietnam, Kosovo, Fiji and Puerto Rico won their first Olympics gold medals in Rio. We agonise over our tally of eight.
The Olympics, however tarnished they have become by drugs, corruption, extravagance, corporatisation and self-interest, are a celebration of humanity, warts and all.
The tears, in victory and defeat, are an essential ingredient. They distil the years of hard work and impossible dreaming into a moment. They show how much it means.
For every surprise winner like Chloe Esposito, there’s a beaten favourite like Cate Campbell. Every participant has a story. Through the Olympics we get to hear some of them and build a better appreciation of this messy planet we all call home.
Sometimes the piece you write is not what you intended. This was going to be a light-hearted look at the Games’ most memorable moments. But these are the words that came out.
I love it when that happens, when you can let the words take their own form rather than choking them with your doubts and expectations.
What we can admire about all of these athletes is that they put themselves forward and allowed themselves to be measured against the unknown standard that dictated their particular day of competition.
They were courageous in competition, gracious in victory, gallant in disappointment.
Can we onlookers say the same for ourselves?