Downhill Skiing and Writing: A Match Made in Heaven.

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!

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Skygate Farm

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.

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First day lesson at Park City (Patrick, Kathy, James, John) [Photographer unknown]
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.

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James showing no fear before skiing an avalanche hazard area at Deer Valley [Photographer John Rist]
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.

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Rhonda, Scott, Ellie, Squid, Nick, John, Kathy at Deer Valley

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.

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Photo credit: mullerb via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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.

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James on high [Photographer John Rist]
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,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2016 (unless otherwise specified)
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11 thoughts on “Downhill Skiing and Writing: A Match Made in Heaven.

  1. SKIING … in UTAH … I don’t know if I can be more jealous! I haven’t been skiing yet this season and I can’t wait to go. I missed last year because of broken leg (not from skiing). =(

    Great analogies and great post. Love the bit about lessons and practice (for both skiing and writing). I’ve skied since I was a kid and I still like to take a private lesson almost every time I ski. I always learn something new or work on a new skill. I can see how this relates to writing. How can we ever know everything there is to know? Or try every trick or technique?

    I’m glad the trip was fun and I’m glad skiing has positively impacted other areas of your life!
    ~Kat

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks. Ollie is sleeping now, or I’m sure he’d have something to say.

    As for me (his typist),I hope you didn’t feel any pain while typing this, and that your carpal tunnel is better.

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  3. Great Utah/Ollie ski blog! Ollie, I wish you could come out here with James! You could hang with my crew. I am sure they would love you. I loved seeing James! Thanks for sharing him with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ollie and James, I love this post. How wonderful to relate skiing to writing, and the nerve it takes to conquer the mountain. Also, remembering never to be so bold as to think we have it all figured out.

    I’ve never been skiing, but I love to dance. I used to teach classes. There was so much work involved behind the scenes, to build the routine and then learn it. Everything was timed meticulously, participants in the class, walked away (hopefully) thinking that something magical had just happened. But really, everything was timed perfectly. The dance routine would have a very structured build and cool down, and all the moves and changes were timed with precision to the music (so it felt like something amazing had just happened). I’d work my butt off to get it as close to perfect as I could, then I would let it all go. Walk into class and let the music speak to me. Dance taught me how to let go and trust the music. Kinda of like, know the rules so that you can break them. When you have it inside, then you can open your wings and fly.

    Thank you for such an inspiring post, and for reminding me, why I love to dance, and why it feels so similar to my writing process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. S.K. – I, too, used to dance. I took jazz dance at Carnegie Hall in NYC. I did it for exercise, but loved dancing. I understand how it relates. Ollie is ever so happy you mentioned this, as it reminded him of when I seemed to be all but dancing on the snow. Thank you.

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  5. This post made me happy. Great photos, and the analogies are spot-on. I haven’t been skiing in nearly 20 years. Wow. I can’t believe it’s been that long. Each time I went I took a lesson the first day or two. My last ski trip was “a trip” and I will enlighten you another time, but I rode the “high” I got from that one for a long time. I enjoy seeing your smiling face here. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Skiing writer here, too, James! Would love to dish. Thank you for the new metaphors here. I’ll never look at new work or revisions in the same old way again. I love laying down fresh tracks in snow (of course!) but I didn’t take that enthusiasm to the blank document, previously, or to the editing process, either. Sometimes new documents can feel a version of good to me, and editing can satisfy, but never yet like fresh a fresh snowfall on a favorite slope or the finesse of a honed technique on good boards. My new commitment? To stop at the open doc and pause for a moment to pull up that feeling of standing atop a first-tracks run before starting, savoring it. I’ll also commit to doing something similar before an edit so that I appreciate and pay homage to my progress in the craft. LOVE it! Wonderful post.

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    1. Nice to know there is another skier in our group. Glad you liked the post. And thanks for commenting. Of course, Ollie would prefer I stayed at home instead of going skiing, but then he wouldn’t have had so much fun with his friends while I was away.

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