June 26, 2017

Golfing and Writing And Throwing Clubs In A Lake

(Printed in Writers In the Storm: http://writersinthestormblog.com/)

I recently started golfing. My husband (nicknamed “Innocent Husband” because the poor man can never be held responsible for what his wife says or writes), made me.

He has been hoping I would golf with him for over two decades.

I have resisted. Even thinking about trying to put a tiny white ball into a tiny hole hundreds of yards off made my brain want to bust open and shriek.

But Innocent Husband recently bought me clubs, smiled endearingly, and I caved.

I am a terrible golfer. No one told me that golf balls have evil brains. No one told me that the golf ball will do whatever it wants to do no matter how I swing the club. I have hit trees and almost Innocent Husband. I have hit my ball into grass so deep, and so far off course, it took ten minutes to find it.

But I love it. Unbelievably. Miraculously. I love it. As I love writing.

So let me link golfing and writing if I can. I think they have some things in common besides swear words.

1) Practice Swinging and Scribbling . Golfing takes practice. It’s going to take a lot of practice for me to get the ball to go straight instead of heading straight towards the sand pit. Writing does, too. It takes practice for beginners and for people who have won The National Book Award. You must write. Write and edit your manuscript, but write an article or a blog, too. If you like poetry, write a poem. Write a letter. Write on your computer, write by hand in a beautiful journal. Write in a whole new genre. Write.

2) Analyze and Dissect. You need to analyze your golf swing so you don’t keep swinging and swinging…and the golf ball is still sitting there cackling meanly up at you from the tee.

You need to analyze your own work. Don’t tell yourself you’re terrible, but take a hard, deep, honest look at your plot. Will it find an audience? Who is your audience? Is the plot, truly, interesting? What about the characters? Are they unique, compelling, funny, maddening or diabolical? If they need to be likable, are they likable? What about the pacing of your book? Slow pacing kills a plot. I have seen this a hundred times. Is your plot moving right along?

What about the dialogue? Is it realistic? Is it flat out amusing or threatening or thought provoking or utterly sincere? Does it tell the reader about the personality of the characters? Are you using the setting and weather to enhance the plot? Are there character arcs? Will your story evoke emotion in the reader? Will it make them laugh or cry or think or all three? It should.

3) Get Outside and Groove. You need to get outside to golf unless you want to break a window and you need to get outside to write. On nice days I set my computer up on my table in my back yard. Hiking helps. Walking helps. Going to the lake or the beach or the mountain helps. (Don’t golf in the mountains.) You need to get a different perspective and being outside will help you think through your work.

4) Learn from others, like I learn from Innocent Husband when he’s coaching me on the golf course and telling me not to treat the golf ball as the enemy. Read your favorite authors and take their work apart. Why do you like their books? How can you put those elements in your own work? I have learned from Geraldine Brooks, Alice Walker, James McBride, Bailey White, Kaye Gibbons, etc. If you read a book you didn’t like, why? What can you do to make sure you don’t repeat that author’s mistake?

5) Never throw your golf clubs in the lake. Too expensive. Never quit writing if it’s something you love to do. Never.

Good luck. I mean that, I do.

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Cathy Lamb
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