Shannon Miller: “I hope it’s something that will inspire others”

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By Anna Rose Johnson

All gymnastics fans are familiar with the accomplishments of Shannon Miller, a seven-time Olympic medalist, a World and U.S. National champion, and an inspirational health advocate. Now, readers can learn many fascinating details about the legendary Olympian, thanks to her motivational new book, It’s Not About Perfect.

Through intriguing anecdotes about her career and life, Miller describes how the lessons she learned while competing in gymnastics were later applicable to her battle with cancer. She explains how, as a young gymnast, she realized that it was possible to make mistakes in competition and still come out with a victory. Throughout the book, Miller continually returns to the idea that perfection doesn’t have to be the ultimate benchmark of success. For instance, when she dislocated her elbow just a few months prior to the 1992 Olympic Games, it didn’t stop her from fighting through the injury and winning five Olympic medals. And when she was told to quit gymnastics in 1996 or risk disaster, she relied on her faith to push ahead and come out on top—the same path she took after being diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Today, Miller is not only the most decorated U.S. gymnast of all time, but an inspirational survivor.

It’s Not About Perfect is an uplifting book describing the trials of a memorable sports career, and how a major athlete was able to translate the lessons she learned in gymnastics to her life outside the sport.

I recently caught up with Shannon Miller to discuss the writing of her memoir, which is scheduled for release on April 21st, 2015.

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FT: What inspired you to write your autobiography?

SM: I wrote a shorter ebook and posted it on my website shortly after finishing chemotherapy in 2011. The process of writing was therapeutic for me. I felt like if my story could help another woman focus on her health, make it a priority, then it was a good thing. After that, I was inundated with folks asking when the “real” book was coming out, haha. So I finally broke down and made the decision to write an actual book. The process took a couple of years from start to finish, but it was something that felt right. I certainly expanded on my years in gymnastics, but the focus of the book is how lessons learned through sport helped me in my cancer journey. I hope it’s something that will inspire others to keep going no matter what life throws at them.

 

FT: What was the easiest part of writing the book?

SM: I’m not sure if there was an easy part. Even narrowing down a lifetime of pictures was difficult. It was really fun to “interview” my parents, though. We really don’t talk about my gymnastics career every day so it was interesting to get their perspective on things and even hear new stories that I hadn’t recalled from when I was little. As a parent, I now have a better understanding of everything they went through to give me the opportunity to succeed doing something I love.

 

FT: What was the hardest part?

SM: The most difficult part was trying not to write a 1,000 page book! I had to keep coming back to the focus which was using “lessons learned” to help me through my cancer journey. I had to write that down and keep it in front of me so that I didn’t veer too far off-topic. When you start writing about your life, it’s hard to choose was goes in and what doesn’t.

It was also difficult to choose a title. I went through at least a hundred trying to find just the right one. However, “It’s Not About Perfect” seemed to sum up my life and also the number one lesson that I have learned throughout all these years. It’s wonderful to strive for perfection, but what is truly important is that we get up each day and do our very best.

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FT: Can you describe your writing process?

SM: I love writing. I do it every day as part of my job. I may be writing articles, answering interview questions, writing blogs, or even books! But writing a book of this magnitude is not something I would go at alone. I had a wonderful sports writer, Danny Peary, who worked with me to find the outline and weave the story together. He helped me decide what stays and what goes. We had to find a happy medium between the details of so many different competitions, life stories, fun tidbits and, of course, discussing my cancer diagnosis in 2011. There were so many rewrites that you start to get lost in what you’ve written and what you’ve revised. We have had many eyes on it including several copy editors but still, I’m sure you’ll find a typo or two. But, hey, it’s not about perfect, LOL.

 

FT: Do you have a favorite section of It’s Not About Perfect?

SM: At different times, I think they are all my favorites. Even the tougher parts to write about were the things I my life that made me stronger. I loved reliving some of the moments in my career and childhood. However, I guess I might be partial to the importance of discussing my health issues. One of the major reasons for writing this book was to help others focus on their health.

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FT: What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

SM: I think every person who reads this book will likely gain something different. I hope that people enjoy the stories, have fun walking down memory lane of the Olympics in 1992 and 1996, and the many moments that led up to those victories. I hope that people will take away an idea of what they can do to dream big and make it happen. And, of course, I hope people will see that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, if you have time for it or even how many gold medals you have, our health is our health… and we have to make it a priority each and every day.

Photos via Shannon Miller, credit to Renee Parenteau.

One Comment

  1. Domi says:

    Someone tell Miller gymnastics needs pretty back so she should start training again

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