So, I went golfing for the first time this year. Hadn’t been out on the links for around a year and was very worried about my swing. I’ve never had a real good one, but when I played regularly, I was able to basically work around my ingrained slice and enjoy myself out there, often making some really great shots, to boot.
Not all of my shots, of course, but enough to keep me wanting to play.
Which got me thinking about my writing, or writing in general, actually.
Writing is like golf. Very much like golf in a lot of ways, actually.
You hit that great tee shot, long and straight down the middle of the fairway, and the first thought that runs through your mind is: this is going to be a great round.
Just like that opening line or paragraph of whatever project you’re working on. It just comes out, smooth and natural, with nary a hitch in it, and you think: man, this is going to be awesome. It might be the best thing I’ve ever written.
And then you take your second shot, and your third, and, like your writing as you progress through your project, each one can be either good or bad.
In golf, it’s not the one bad shot that ruins your round; it’s the 3 or 4 other shots you have to waste correcting what you messed up with that one shot. In writing, it’s veering down a path in which your storyline, or you characters, deviate from what the story requires, and the stubbornness of the author in trying to take those mistakes and force them into something they are no longer able to be, instead of simply going back and, in golf parlance, taking a mulligan: doing it over.
In golf, it is possible that the result of a bad shot can be ameliorated by one great swing, or even a little luck. In writing, occasionally, it is possible that something that originally seems to be “wrong” can turn into something wonderful, if the author has the vision to see it, and the courage to chase it, just as a golfer might have the courage (or luck) to try something that seems crazy to everyone else in order to dig themselves out of a hole, and it works.
Finally, good shots, bad shots, luck, and hard work get us to the green, with only a putt between us and the successful completion of the hole. But, as any golfer will tell you, if you lose focus on something seemingly so simple, you may have to do it more than once.
In writing, as we approach the end, we have to focus even harder in order to not squander all of the effort that we have expended to reach that point, lest a good, or even great, project can be ruined with a terrible conclusion.
And while we should never “settle” for par writing, it is certainly preferable to bogey or—gasp—double bogey writing. A nice birdie and occasional eagle should be our goal.