I've been doing a lot of research on professional wrestling lately. Partly because I'm a huge fan and partly because I'm considering writing a book series about something related to it. I've been watching documentaries (which is something I love to do in general) about it and finding weird similarities between writing and professional wrestling.
For example, there are different levels of wrestling. There are those who sign up for wrestling events on their own, those who get a contract with indie wrestling companies, and those who sign up with big wrestling companies (like the WWE.) It reminded me a lot of self-publishing, indie publishing, and traditional publishing. Self-publishers have to pay for their own stuff (editors and book covers) and promote their own books, similar to how wrestlers who have no contract go out, buy their own costumes, fund their own schools/trainers/seminars, and sometimes get paid nothing or very little to wrestle. They make their own personas on stage, they have complete creative control (like self-published authors, which is why self-publishing appeals to me), but no backing from anybody. Indie wrestling companies are small and don't pay a ton, similar to indie publishing companies, they don't get as popular or as much exposure, but they get wrestling jobs on a regular basis and have some creative control. While when there's a big contract involved (think traditional publishing), they might get a ton of money (but not always, just like writers who sell a lot aren't always making a lot of money), except they have almost no creative control. Whatever the company says, goes, and sometimes people are pushed out of the way, not because they are bad, but because other, more popular wrestlers (think books as well, since this happens with books too) are getting all of the attention. Promotion stops and eventually they lose their jobs. Reminds me of some people I've heard of who have gotten contracts and been dropped for one reason or another by either the publishing company or agent and it's usually because of sales. In the wrestling world, it's whether the crowd is silent when you come out or whether they cheer and/or boo a lot.
There's a ton of wrestlers out there and only the very top few get contracts with the big companies. Like writing, it's very hard to make a living off of wrestling, regardless of what route you take and most of them have day jobs. They face regular rejection, turned away from even local matches because there isn't enough money. (Nope, that doesn't sound familiar at all or like the life of a writer at all, does it? Rejection is only our middle names.)
They also talk about practicing every day, studying the techniques, and also how every wrestler has a different style. It's an art form, I keep hearing them say and they talk about finding something that sounds strangely similar to a writer finding their "voice" when talking about the way they move naturally on stage. That every wrestler is unique and has to find what moves they do in a special way that expresses their personalities. It's their wrestling "voice."
In fact, I was watching Daniel Bryan, one of the top wrestlers in the WWE right now, doing a seminar in the documentary, The Wrestling Road Diaries. As he taught the students how to wrestle, he, himself compared it to writing:
"It's like being a writer. You know like, if you know the basic tools for writing, you adjust it as you go along and knowing the rules makes, allows you to break the rules and know what you're doing as you do it."
- Daniel Bryan when he was known as Bryan Danielson during his speech where he spoke about mastering the basics of wrestling before moving on and learning the showy moves.
When you hear them speak about their love of wrestling, they talk about sacrifices they've made, but how they do it out of love, even if they don't get paid. The passion in their voices reminded me a lot of writers and how we view our craft.
People think professional wrestling is fake. That it doesn't involve pain or work and that it's easy to get into. Wrestlers get offended by this after all they've done. They hate being judged for their "strange" lifestyle and meet a lot of people who don't get why they have a need to wrestle all the time. I've met people who think it's easy to write a bestseller. I laugh.
They sacrifice themselves to the point where a lot of them wind up in chronic pain the rest of their life and still miss doing it. Honestly, my heart went out to those people. What would it be like to get brain cancer or a stroke and lose the abilities to write? It would be horrible and that's what many of them suffer through.
In a similar way, people underestimate how hard it is to write a book. They don't understand why we lock ourselves in our rooms all the time, re-writing our chapters over and over again. They judge us for the things we write, but we can't stop doing it.
Writing and wrestling are obviously very different. One is dangerous and the other is not, but the fact that we are both entertainers opened my eyes to how often they struggle with similar things that I do and strive to be the very best in a world full of rejection just like me. We both take business risks, want to make a living off of our dream, and are likely to never get where we want to be.