Last week, my 15-year-old sons and I took beginner tennis lessons. It was a fun but challenging week. We learned new skills such as forehand, backhand, volley, and serve. We felt muscles we didn't know existed.
As we progressed through the week, I experienced the same emotions I experience with each new writing endeavor:
On the morning of our first lesson, as we learned simple things, I was hopeful for what the week would bring. I imagined my skills growing each day, and how much fun my sons and I would have when we conquered the tennis court. Heck, with a cute tennis skirt and a visor, what could go wrong? I was an eager student.
When I first began writing seriously, I was also hopeful. I marinated in each new writing skill, knowing I was working my way toward something important. With each writing project, I open a fresh document with high hopes and great expectancy.
By the middle of our tennis lessons, I became discouraged. As the coach increased the level of difficulty, I experienced the whole "one step forward, two steps back" thing. As each new skill was taught, I struggled to remember the skills from previous lessons. I wondered why in the heck I fooled myself into thinking I could learn a new sport. I envied my sons, who are super athletic and learn such things easily.
Same with each writing project, and with my writing journey as a whole. With each new project, I reach a point when I feel discouraged and wonder how I'd ever had that initial jolt of courage. I struggle to remember each lesson I've learned, trying to perfect this skill and that technique. How did I ever think I could conquer such tasks as writing a full-length novel?
Suck it Up and Move On
During tennis, right after a brief pity party, I had to suck it up and move on. I realized I was not going to become a Williams sister in the course of one week. I learned what I could, knowing it would take practice, practice, practice. I could either focus on all I was doing wrong, or on all I'd learned in a short period of time.
Same with writing. When we hit a wall, sometimes we just have to suck it up and move on. We can't stifle our creative momentum by sulking about all we're doing wrong. We can rejoice in what we've done right, knowing we still need to practice, practice, practice.
At the end of our tennis camp, I was proud of all we'd accomplished. As our coach pointed out, we had a basic knowledge of how the sport worked. Now we could bang a few balls around the court. We had a foundation to work with. Were we skilled in the sport? Well, more than we'd been at the beginning of the week. We'd taken on the challenge of learning something new. We'd put our hearts into the lessons, and shared a lot of laughs.
With each writing project, I feel pride at several stages. Proud of the original idea. Proud of the perseverance through doubts and insecurities. Proud of the finished product. We writers should feel proud of what we accomplish, while acknowledging there's still so much to learn.
Do you experience these same emotions when writing? Have you learned a new sport or skill lately? Ever played tennis?