If you hadn’t guessed yet, for me, writing and tennis have a lot in common. What I learn at the computer many times translates to my “work” on the court and vice versa. Many times these ‘lessons’ are so simplistic, they might seem obvious to the outside observer, but to me they are like Messages From On High. So, what I learned the other day is this:
The ball is the boss.
My instructor noticed I seemed to be using the slice and the topspin groundstroke randomly, with no relation to how the ball was coming to me. This was true. Many times, I’d decide, before my opponent even returned the ball, that I was going to use a particular shot. If you’re a seasoned tennis player, however, you see the fault in this – you have to wait and see where and how the ball is coming to you to determine how you should hit it. So my instructor gave me this simple rule: if the ball is rising, hit a slice. If it is dropping, hit a topspin.
This translates to: The Ball is the Boss. Wait and see what the ball is doing and then react accordingly.
It also translates to Get Out of Your Own Head, Stupid!
In writing, this rule is: The Character is The Boss.
No matter how I want a certain thing to happen in my story or how well I plot out the story ahead of time, the character is the boss. If I stay in the character’s head (not in my own) I will write a truer story. My character will lead me to what would actually happen, not what I as the author think “should” happen.
It’s about being flexible, not getting ahead of things or forcing things, letting the plot or the shot work out organically.
It’s about shutting off your brain, trusting your instincts and letting go.
Now I’m off to try to put that into practice….
A while ago, a friend encouraged me to start blogging again, and so here I (finally) am. I’m still writing (3/4 through a new YA historical novel), still playing tennis, still struggling with PLOT and still struggling (a bit) with my forehand groundstroke. However! This does not mean progress has not been made!
In my tennis game, I have learned a few new advanced shots – the forehand and backhand slice – which have come fairly easily, for some odd reason. I’ve learned more game strategies. I’ve learned to make educated guesses as to my opponents next shot. My tennis has definitely improved.
On the writing side, I’ve developed a nice record-keeping strategy, which keeps me focused and motivated. I’ve written close to 350 pages – over half of which will never be seen by anyone other than my dog (trust me, it’s better that way). I count those pages as an accomplishment, however, because they were the necessary work to get to where I am in my story today. Those pages are akin to my hitting the tennis ball against the wall in the church parking lot. They were needed practice, and my writing has benefited from them.
But with all this progress, I am still freezing up on my forehand and many days my writing is painfully slow. Why?
Unfortunately, I have the same, old brain.
The impatient brain that wants to be great RIGHT NOW.
The brain that critiques each shot, each sentence.
The brain that doesn’t trust my abilities, and that worries about making mistakes.
I have had many tennis sessions working exclusively on my forehand. With time, I always get into
a groove and I have it! No worries!
I have also had writing sessions – using a pen and paper – where the story and voices are coming so fast, it’s like I’m a court reporter, barely keeping up with the action. In both these cases, I am what my tennis instructor calls ‘in the zone.’ I am not listening to any inner critic, I am only focusing on the action in front of me. Though 3 1/2 months have passed since New Year’s, I am making my resolution now:
Go for the zone, and leave my critic in the car.
How do you get in your zone?
Next post: Making Procrastination Work for You
So, I’m going on tour.
Well, kind of.
A skype tour!
My son’s a music guy and my older daughter has a knack for finding really cool, interesting music.
I’m not sure which one of them discovered this song – it’s catchy in a wacky, offbeat way.
And the video is classic story telling.
p.s. Watch the little girl’s face after the man pays for the flowers;)