July 19, 2011

Random Thoughts on Writing From the Roller Rink

Yesterday I took my two daughters to the rollerskating rink for the first time. They had never been on skates before and there was about a fifteen year gap for me since I had. We were all pretty shaky and spent the majority of our time hugging the walls and wobbling across the floor-that is when we weren't flat on our backs! My youngest became frustrated after a few minutes because suddenly this very exciting sounding activity was starting to feel a lot like work. She sat in the middle of the floor. letting all the other skaters flow past her and cried.

Looking back on it now, it occurs to me that learning how to roller skate is a lot like writing a novel and trying to get published. At first, the whole thing seems exciting, a great creative adventure. You picture yourself gliding through a rough draft, polishing it with speed, each step a little challenging, but mostly thrilling and above all fun. But then you dive into the rough draft and find that it takes days just to get a few pages down. You stumble and fall more than you glide and your butt and your head hurt from all the abuse the both of them have taken. All around you more accomplished writers are speeding along, wind in their hair, smiles on their faces doing tricks you didn't even know were possible. And it all seems incredibly hard. This is the point where you want to plop down on the floor and cry, your confidence not only shaken, but obliterated. You want to give up. You want to say that maybe it just isn't for you, maybe the people who actually manage to balance on both feet and move forward have some special quality that you are sadly lacking. You are right where my daughter was yesterday, on the verge of giving up.

You have to ask yourself the same question my daughter asked: Is it worth it? Because if it is, then you're in exactly the right place. You can't learn to roll along until you've fallen on your face a few times. Gliding in writing or skating isn't natural, it's learned. Sure, some people pick up the basics quicker and stop falling faster, but does it really matter if the end result is the same? You can't control how long it takes you to make it all the way around the rink without falling, but you can control your ability to get back up after a fall, to keep going in spite of what others are doing. And let's face it, once you do find your balance it does get a little easier. You don't have to hold onto the wall as much. You start picking up your pace and trying out some tricks of your own. And when the breeze finally hits your face, it isn't a surprise, it's a cool reward for all the effort you've put forth.

My daughter got up and kept trying. By the end of the two hours we spent there she was holding the wall just a little less. She still has a long way to go, but she doesn't seem to care. She figured out that she wants to learn to glide and now she won't settle for anything less. In fact, we will be back on the rink next week. So what about you? Do you want to glide or not?


  1. This is a great analogy about writing and life in general. Interesting timing that I read it tonight - lots in here that I needed to hear.

    I bet it won't be long before your youngest is gliding along without holding the wall at all, and you'll have been there to watch her whole progression.

  2. Glad you liked the comparison and that it was helpful. I was basically pep talking myself, too:)

    I think you're right about the little one. I'll probably be trailing behind her soon. It is completely awesome to witness any of either kid's firsts/accomplishments. Plus, I forgot how fun rollerskating is.