Sunday, November 18, 2012

Writing vs. Gymnastics

I spent yesterday at a junior gymnastics meet, the southern sectionals for the state of Oregon, in Coos Bay.

Well, much of the day wasn't spent at the meet itself. It was spend driving there, past fields of impossibly green grass nibbled by picturesque sheep, past blueberry farms, past forests of towering evergreens, past a lighthouse on Oregon's rocky coast (the coast kept discomfiting me by being on the RIGHT-hand side of the road as we drove south, unlike the New Jersey coast of my childhood). We also made stops at a little bookstore/cafe so I could see if they had any of my books (they did! so I am now three-for-three at Oregon bookstores - thank you, Oregon!), and at a huge candy store (Cranberry Sweets) to see if they had any fudge (they did! and amazing samples of everything,  best of all: chocolate-covered cranberry jellies - oh, my!). But the heart of the day was the gymnastics meet.

How these strong, graceful, and determined girls can do what they do is of course astonishing - where the hardest part of what they do is not even back flips off uneven parallel bars, but weathering inevitable disappointments with grace.  I came away from the day enormously impressed, but also enormously grateful that I am a writer instead of a gymnast.

Here are ten of the reasons why:

1. I can perfect my work at home in private before I ever have to show it to anybody in public.
2. When I do show it to people in public, it stays fixed in the form I gave to it in private.
3. There is no risk of physical injury (except for the time I broke my tooth while chewing on my pen).
4. There is no need to wear form-revealing clothing (a flannel nightgown does just fine).
5. No particular body type is preferred ("elegant lines" are written on the page, not displayed on a balance beam).
6. My fear of heights is never engaged (unless I choose to write a scene that engages it, which I now pledge never to do).
7. Scoring is much less precisely calibrated: no 8.95 or 6.94 to drive me crazy (though I guess some writers drive themselves crazy with their sales ranking - so I might need to withdraw this one....)
8. What scores I do get (such as rejections, reviews, or royalty statements), I see in my own home where I can cry alone in peace.
9. I can do the work that matters most at the time of day where I am freshest and best: in my case, at five o'clock in the morning,
10. There is no one single moment of my day that is ever a defining moment for the day, let alone for my career.

It's this last one that is most striking to me. It was so hard to watch girls who had trained so hard for so many months have it all come down to a vault that was over in a matter of seconds, or one wobble on that oh-so-narrow beam.

For writers there IS one moment that is decisive, and it is decisive every single day, but in a very different way. It's the simply the moment when we pick up the pen and actually begin writing.

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