It’s me, Ollie. And James is back from skiing in Utah. I’m so excited. I missed him so much. How much, you ask? Well, we have a huge (no, I’m not related to “the Donald”) yard, and when I say huge I mean huge – more acres (hectares to some) than you can imagine. I missed James more than that!
He picked me up today from the kennel, and as soon as we got home we went for a nice long walk. Of course, I was super tired from having been with all my friends, playing until the wee hours. (Truth be told, we play all night, but don’t let the humans know.) So I tagged along and listened to what James had to say. (He talks a lot when we walk – well, he walks and I run around.) He told me all about his ski trip.
Now I won’t bore you with the details. Not that I was bored with anything James had to say. (Oh, that one got me a treat.) All I’ll say is he had a great time with John & Kathy & Ellie & Elodie & Nick & Jeanie & Rhonda & Squid. (I know, I thought a squid was found in the ocean and not on a ski slope – go figure.) Now, you might be asking, why am I bringing up his skiing trip if I’m not going to talk about it? Because it was the things he’s learned from skiing that I thought you might find interesting.
The first and foremost thing James learned on the initial day he put ski boots on his feet and slipped those boots into the ski bindings was to take a lesson. Actually, James said he took a lesson every day during the first couple of years he skied. That’s a lot of lessons. And he took a lesson on his first day in Utah. And learning one’s craft – the rules of writing – is critical to being a writer. You need to know the rules in order to break them successfully. Some may say there are no rules, especially with poetry, but there are.
Another thing to remember when skiing, as well as when writing, is that you are never as good as you’d like to be. The blowhards on the slopes are fools who don’t know their limits. When writing, the first draft is rarely, if ever, good enough. It’s the multitude of edits that make for good writing. Think of it as practice. James says there’s an old adage, Practice Makes Perfect. But perfection is only in the mind, yet striving for it makes you better at both skiing and writing.
A critical thing James told me he learned years ago (I didn’t ask how many – darn, no treat) was to not be afraid of the mountain. An early ski instructor told him he looked like he was scared of the mountain. Instead of being scared, James was told to attack the mountain. As such, James doesn’t let fear prevent him from stepping into the bindings of his skis, or from putting the first word on the page. Just as the degree of incline shouldn’t prevent you from trying to ski down, don’t let the length of a novel put you off starting one. And if you are sick or injured, don’t let being sidelined from skiing prevent you from writing. James wrote the first draft of his three-act play, Charades, one winter while at Utah when he couldn’t ski.
The best part of skiing, and writing, is the friends you’ll make along the way. James says he’s so lucky that his friend Phil introduced him to skiing and to the Kathy’s House Maddog Ski Team. And this past Oct Platform Challenge through Writer’s Digest brought him in touch with a wonderful group of writers. James feels so fortunate to know both of these groups and to call them his friends.
In terms of how skiing has helped James with his writing, he showed me a clean sheet of paper. He asked me what I saw. I told him a clean sheet of paper. (Duh!) James said he saw a ski slope on which no one has yet to leave tracks, and he’ll be the first to have the enjoyment of skiing through all that powder. (I wasn’t sure if I should be worried about him. What, no treat?) James went on to say that the process of editing, which is critical to being successful, as mentioned above, was the crisscrossing of the tracks already laid down. And then it all comes together.
The act of skiing also clears James’ head. By clearing it, he can see how a story or poem or novel or play on which he’s working could come together in a more meaningful manner. As such, when he gets in front of his keyboard, the words and plots and characters come alive. All of this, James told me, is because he has been invigorated to begin new journeys, travel new paths, seek new answers. At this point, James was all but dancing on the snow during our walk as he told me skiing has given him the confidence to be a writer, reaching heights he would have once been afraid to scale.
Speaking of heights, the way James was acting, I thought he might be high. When I asked him if he was, he told me he’s never been so high. Skiing and writing have allowed him to enter a world all of his own. From the exhilarating physical exercise he’s invigorated to scale new heights, to challenge himself to be better. James told me that it’s a high you can’t get anywhere else. (Except from being with yours truly – I’m sure that is what James meant to add. And a treat comes my way. Yea!)
Let me know if you, too, have found something like skiing that has made you better at what you do. I always like hearing from you in the comments on my site.
Until next week,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)