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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Writing is just like rowing – I bet you never knew that! by Trish Morey

Like most writers I know, I love reading. I love to find a great book, a simply unputdownable book, and get transported away with the characters, the setting and with their situation. I will fly through it, relishing every word, eating up the prose until, with a final sigh of satisfaction tinged with disappointment, the book is finished. Those books, those fast reading, page-turning, non-trip-uppable stories that flow like ribbons through your mind’s eye, they must be easy to write – right?

Wrong. As someone once said, easy reading is hard writing.

It’s like that with rowing. I used to row many moons ago, in single and double sculls, and in a four when I lived back in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. I used to head lakewards around 5am every morning and slap my boat onto the mirror finish water and row for an hour or more, covering kilometers. But when I first started, I could barely balance in my narrow scull with its long fine oars. I used to wobble my way around the bay, too scared to venture outside, in case the worst happened and I was dumped into the freezing waters. A lot like when I started writing. I wasn’t game to send my first tentative words away to contests and risk being torn to shreds.

But gradually, the confidence to exit that bay built up, much as my confidence to send my work out to editors and contests slowly grew. I still wasn’t rowing well. I certainly didn’t have great technique and there were many a time my blade would dig in way too deep and I’d in rowing terms “catch a crab”. In writing I’d catch a rejection. Lots and lots of rejections. I won a few races as a novice sculler, and boy, did that lift the spirits. I won a few writing contests. I had great rowing coaches. In writing I had critique groups.

I used to love skating over the millpond surface of the lake on those frosty morning, like a water insect darting over the surface and I did pretty well, actually made it to a couple of Nationals downunder although I never brought home a medal. I finalled in the Golden Heart, although the necklace eluded me.

And one day I worked out what it took to be a great rower. I was watching the Olympics (or the Commonwealth Games) and watching a rower look so utterly relaxed and fluid as he powered his boat through the 2000 metres to win a gold medal. Just looking at him you couldn’t tell how much he was working, how much effort he was putting in when those blades dug into the water, how much it hurt when he rammed down his legs and pushed back. He made it look so utterly easy.

And that’s the mark of a great writer too. Remember that last great book you read? You didn’t see how hard that book was to write, you didn’t feel the pain when things didn’t go well for the author, you didn’t see the blood, sweat and tears that went into its creation. What you read was smooth, fluid and seemingly effortless. It’s a worthy goal.

In June, as I work on my current wip, that’s going to be my goal. I’m going to dip my oars into the water and have a go.


At 7:03 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

You are so clever, Trish! This was a great analogy!

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

It is a great analogy--and so beautifully written! Thanks, Trish!

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

I agree, great analogy. I didn't know you were a rower. How cool.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A long, long time ago, Trish. Amazing I can still remember when I haven't a clue about my blogger log in:-))

Trish Mo

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous peter said...

Dear Trish,

I feel the same way about rowing, and I'm actually going to be on the team this month. It will be a challenge and I expect to feel the same way when I leave the bay with the others. Thank you for the encouragement.

At 6:46 PM, Blogger Tori Scott said...

Great analogy, Trish! My oldest was a rower at the Coast Guard Academy. Said it was really tough.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck Peter! It's a great sport whether in singles or with a crew. I'm sure you'll be just fine.

Trish Mo

At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Tori - a rower with the Coast Guard Academy - that sounds great (and a heap more impressive that our wee little Canberra Rowing Club)

You know, I live in the hills now, and I love it, but all this talk about rowing is making me really hanker for the water. But maybe I better get stuck into the ms or I'll never make the finish line - lol.

Diane and Colleen - so glad the analogy worked for you!

Trish Mo

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Fun post, Trish. I'll never look at a rower in quite the same way...


At 10:58 AM, Blogger Casey said...

Great analogy.

I've read so many books on 'writing books,' read so many interviews with authors, and online discussions about outlining vs freewriting... I've studied writing for years, trying to figure out what it takes. It was only after starting my blog that I started to think, I could do this.

Thanks for the reminder that writing is, and should be, hard work.


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