As I mentioned in my post about Hope, Pride, and Midway Blues, I've taken up tennis. As C. S. Lewis once said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." So there you go.
Of course, as I dug into tennis this summer, my writer brain ran parallels between writing and tennis. My thoughts?
- Jump in at your skill level. I didn't enter the sport with the notion that I'd be a skilled player after a couple of lessons. I was starting out on the bottom rung, with absolutely no idea how to even keep score. (Tennis score is really weird, though, but I digress) Same with writing. We don't enter the writing life as experts. We enter at our own skill level and go from there. No pressure to be like the aforementioned C. S. Lewis--now or ever.
- Soak up advice from those ahead of you. In every area of our lives, there are people who know more than we do. Many of those people want to see others rise higher and improve their skills. Tennis and writing are no different. If someone offers tips, don't get offended and shut them out. Instead, soak up their wisdom and thank them for caring enough to help.
- There is always something to learn. Even the best tennis players practice constantly and continue to improve. Experienced writers agree that they do not know it all and that they must continue to work on their craft. We will never, ever, know it all. Thank goodness! The journey would be boring without growth.
- Don't let setbacks stop you. Sometimes I feel as if I haven't learned a thing with tennis, and that I'm moving backwards instead of forward. It may be frustrating, but that's just part of the process. As writers, we understand that there will be good days and bad days, momentum and failure. Heck, even Serena Williams has setbacks. We learn from them and move on.
- Stay after class. My serve needs...ahem...some work. At this point, I'm happy if it just makes it into the service box. After my practice with other players ends, I stay alone and work on my serve. If we recognize a writing weakness--character, plot, world--it's helpful to dig in and do extra work in that area. It may take time and effort, but the improvement is worth it.
- Keep those muscles working. Whether it's the mental muscles of writing, or the leg, arm, and shoulder muscles for tennis, it's helpful to keep them moving. I didn't write much over the summer, and when I came back to my manuscript, it took me a while to warm up.
- Fatigue happens. Sometimes I try so hard to improve my tennis shots, I become too fatigued. And when I'm too fatigued, it's a downward spiral. It's time to take a break. We've all been there before with our writing, yes? When our brains are fried and we read the same sentence over and over again and have no revelation about what to do next. Stop. Rest. Return.
- Get out there and try. I played in my first league match last weekend. I went in with the attitude, I'm new, but I've got the guts to try. With the afterthought, I hope these ladies have a sense of humor. I have a long way to go, but boy, was it fun. I love the Wayne Gretzky quote, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I say that to my sons all the time. And why should I be any different? Why not take a shot? What's the worst that can happen? My manuscript is a flop? I'm a goofy tennis player? So what?
With anything in life, I think the most important thing we can do is live in the moment and enjoy the journey. Otherwise, what's the point?
Writing friends, what's your take on these comparisons? If you've played tennis, how's your serve? Can you reliably get that little green ball into the service box? Help!!