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January 08, 2014 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-01-08

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- . 7 I

the writer's notebook: I'm a writer, you're not by max radwin

I'm a writer. You're not. At least,
that's what I'd like to think, or used
to think.
I've always held the belief that
artists are born that way. They're
born writers, painters, sculptors,
composers, whatever.
Sure, you can practice an art.
But if you weren't born with some
kind of condition - a persuasion
that allows you to see the world ina
way that others can't - then you're
just another dabbling ina world not
meant for your art.
Of course, you can write and not
be a writer. A news reporter writes
but isn't necessarily one. E.L. James
certainly writes, but isn't one. The
only way to define a writer ... is as
a writer. But is that definition suf-
ficient? Are there specific char-
acteristics to be attributed to the
profession? Or is it just a vague,
inherited birthright?
I didn't come up with this con-
cept. My insight is inherited from
other artists: Edward Hirsch ("The
Demon and the Angel," which
explores this topic in great length),
Lorca, Mill, Milton or any other
writer who gives credit to the muse
or duende. Even the shitty ones like
Stephanie Meyer credit supernatu-
ral sources like dreams - which
presumably come to those individu-
als who have the tools to turn the
metaphysical into works of art.
i 0 '

rj
1

Greg Harden: Man on the sideline
by Michelle MacMahon
THE
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1

MICHIGAN
ILLUSTRATION BY MEGAN MULHOLLAND

After Frank O'Hara died, scraps
of paper were found stuffed into
his desk drawers. They were poems
that he had written "spontaneous-
ly" as he walked around New York
City, and which were published
with little to no secondary editing.
He was a poet - a true poet - so
why would they have to be edited?
I got this way of thinking into my
head early. It made me believe that
I was artistically superior to pretty
much everyone. And while Iact like
a prick because of it, I also think
that you kind of need that mindset
if you want to be good, and so I'm
almost thankful for it. I take big
risks creatively because I hold on to
that sense of artistic authority.
And I have that artistic authority
because I'm a born artist - a born
writer, which I could, until late,
only define tautologically.
And it's that circular logic that

gave me problems, often without
even knowing it. When a short story
of mine was recently workshopped,
there were major experimental
sections that people responded to
negatively. My initial response was,
"It's not my fault if you don't get
the premise. This is exactly how
it's supposed to be written." I even
went so far as to think, "Perhaps
this will be appreciated when I'm
gone. It's too ahead of its time." In
reality, I had failed to accept some-
thing that needs to happen in first
drafts. My conceitedness had led
to some artistic bravado, but had
stunted the advancement of my
project.
I started a lifetime habit of vora-
cious reading when I was young not
only because it was immersive, but
also because I knew I was honing a
skill that was rare and valuable.
See WRITER, Page 3B

As I reflect on my student-ath-
lete journey beginning six years
ago as a freshman walk-on at the
University of Michigan, I can't
resist shedding light on a topic
that remains unmentioned in
today's culture and sports media.
Playing a sport at Michigan was
a dream come true for a local west
Michigan girl like me, who pretty
much came out of nowhere as a
nobody. Though there are many
perks to being an athlete, there
are equally difficult mental tri-
als and tribulations that every
student-athlete must face. While
it's easy to point out the perks,
many people forget to consider
the 40-plus hours a week put in
behind the scenes when 100,000
fans aren't showing up to cheer.
Sure, the glitz and glamor of game
day is pretty incredible, but there
are also the day-to-day difficulties
of mentally managing the con-
stant pressure of being a student-
athlete.
Whether a highly touted
recruit or a walk-on, the intense
level of daily pressure, expecta-
tion and discipline remains the
same in the classroom and in one's
sport, especially at Michigan. So
it is quite easy to imagine how
quickly the mental stability of a
student-athlete can spiral down-
ward when succumbed to the vast
pressures front coache , prole-

you could go from hero to zero on really struggled throughout my From day one he never guar-
campus in a matter of seconds if athletic career at Michigan. Aca- anteed me playing time, or that
you missed that buzzer-beating demics and making friends came practice would be easier; the only
shot or that last field goal of the easy, but the anxiety of going to thing he ever guaranteed was that
game? practice every day ate me alive I was going to believe in myself
There are resources for stu- on the inside. I was not confident, and know exactly who I was by
dent-athletes with off-the-field certainly didn't believe in myself the time I left Michigan. "By the
problems that so many fans forget and a complete mental disaster. I last day you walk out of my office
to factor in when making their was struggling at rock bottom and your senior year, you will be able
criticisms, and that I dealt with needed help. The turning point in to point out your strengths, but
so frequently when I was at the my story was Greg Harden. more importantly your weakness-
University. There are difference- I remember my first meeting es, better than anyone else. Your
makers off the court as well as in his office freshman year. I was sport is what you do, it should
on. The difference-maker for this so caught up in my self-pity, part never define who you are. I want
University is a special member of me expected him to coddle you to surround your life with the
of the Athletic Department who me and tell me everything was word, 'believe' from here on out."
gives all of his mentees a men- going to be OK. To my surprise, I He began molding my mind to
tal edge over their competitors: received quite the opposite - the believe and think like a mature
Greg Harden, director of Athletic definition of tough love. His first adult. He always had an endear-
Counseling and associate athletic reaction was, "The inner child in ing way of telling me everything I
director at Michigan. Harden is a you needs to grow up." Ouch. That did not want to hear about myself,
man who puts in all of the work one hurt. But he was right. but it was exactly what I needed
and receives none of the credit, I'm surprised he didn't turn to hear.
which is why he deserves the title and run the other direction when I quickly realized this man was
of unsung hero. he heard I was coming back for not just a sports psychologist. He
Harden is the man behind the round two the next week. "Never opened up my world, refraining
scenes selflessly molding the men- feel sorry for yourself," he said. my mindset through his tough
tal strength of some of Michigan's "Your current situation is difficult, love and honest truths. He contin-
finest talent - the man on the side- but you have two choices: play the uously challenged me to turn my
lines endlessly supporting every victim or adjust your mindset. self-defeating attitudes, thoughts
student-athlete without expecting Control the controllables - you and behaviors into self-confidence
any glory or awards. He is the man are the only one that has control through assertiveness. Every week
who supports you when you throw over your mind. Nobody else can for four years this man empow-
that game-winning touchdown touch that or take that away from ered me with an unwavering posi-
pass, and the same man who never you. Stop letting others determine tive attitude and mindset that I
turns his back on you when you the way you feel about yourself. carry with me to this day.
"blow the game.' Your volleyball experience is a Every athletic program
0espite the grea; memories I merely stepping stone in the pro- deserves "life coa I can't
-r r .-' u., ",: LT ,l' e llfe" W Hlbtill ''ohnn' .''552 Wt 2t

out one. When I think about my
Michigan experience, two short
years ago, and continue to embark -
on my unconventional life path ate
age 23, I am frequently reminded
of his everlasting impact. During
my last meeting senior year, I told
him my dream was to be on tele-
vision for sports broadcasting. He
looked me in the eye and smirked:
"I already know you will, so go and
get it. You are special, kid." And at
that moment, for the first time in
my life, I truly believed in myself.
Upon graduation, I achieved this
dream at the Big Ten Network
serving.as a volleyball analyst in
the fall. None of this would have
happened without my mentor
behind the scenes - the man who
believed in me before I did.
I am a tiny speck in the pool of
Michigan student-athletes who
have been so lucky to have this
man as a mentor, and I credit all
of my current life success to him.
So on football Saturdays when the
television camera zooms in on the
star players, I'm looking past the
winged helmets for the man of
the sideline, the man in the back-
ground grinning in the success of
his mentees, the man who would
never take any of the credit - the
unsung hero of Michigan Athlet-
ics.
Michelle MacMahon gradua ed in
20 ~

COVER BY RUBY WALLAU

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