I recently started golfing.My husband (nicknamed “Innocent Husband” because the poor man can never be held responsible for what his wife says or writes), made me.
He has been hoping I would golf with him for over two decades.
I have resisted. Even thinking about trying to put a tiny white ball into a tiny hole hundreds of yards off made my brain want to bust open and shriek.
But Innocent Husband recently bought me clubs, smiled endearingly, and I caved.
I am a terrible golfer. No one told me that golf balls have evil brains. No one told me that the golf ball will do whatever it wants to do no matter how I swing the club. I have hit trees and almost Innocent Husband. I have hit my ball into grass so deep, and so far off course, it took ten minutes to find it.
But I love it. Unbelievably. Miraculously. I love it. As I love writing.
So let me link golfing and writing if I can. I think they have some things in common besides swear words.
1) Practice Swinging and Scribbling . Golfing takes practice. It’s going to take a lot of practice for me to get the ball to go straight instead of heading straight towards the sand pit. Writing does, too. It takes practice for beginners and for people who have won The National Book Award. You must write. Write and edit your manuscript, but write an article or a blog, too. If you like poetry, write a poem. Write a letter. Write on your computer, write by hand in a beautiful journal. Write in a whole new genre. Write.
2) Analyze and Dissect. You need to analyze your golf swing so you don’t keep swinging and swinging…and the golf ball is still sitting there cackling meanly up at you from the tee.
You need to analyze your own work. Don’t tell yourself you’re terrible, but take a hard, deep, honest look at your plot. Will it find an audience? Who is your audience? Is the plot, truly, interesting? What about the characters? Are they unique, compelling, funny, maddening or diabolical? If they need to be likable, are they likable? What about the pacing of your book? Slow pacing kills a plot. I have seen this a hundred times. Is your plot moving right along?
What about the dialogue? Is it realistic? Is it flat out amusing or threatening or thought provoking or utterly sincere? Does it tell the reader about the personality of the characters? Are you using the setting and weather to enhance the plot? Are there character arcs? Will your story evoke emotion in the reader? Will it make them laugh or cry or think or all three? It should.
3) Get Outside and Groove. You need to get outside to golf unless you want to break a window and you need to get outside to write. On nice days I set my computer up on my table in my back yard. Hiking helps. Walking helps. Going to the lake or the beach or the mountain helps. (Don’t golf in the mountains.) You need to get a different perspective and being outside will help you think through your work.
4) Learn from others, like I learn from Innocent Husband when he’s coaching me on the golf course and telling me not to treat the golf ball as the enemy. Read your favorite authors and take their work apart. Why do you like their books? How can you put those elements in your own work? I have learned from Geraldine Brooks, Alice Walker, James McBride, Bailey White, Kaye Gibbons, etc. If you read a book you didn’t like, why? What can you do to make sure you don’t repeat that author’s mistake?
5) Never throw your golf clubs in the lake. Too expensive. Never quit writing if it’s something you love to do. Never.
Good luck. I mean that, I do.
Do you golf? Did you ever think about trying? Have any other golf/writing tips for us?
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Cathy Lamb is currently working on her tenth novel. She would rather be slugging coffee and eating chocolate on a sunny beach.
Her latest book is The Language of Sisters.
Website - http://cathylamb.org/
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Thanks for the encouragement and laughs too. I did quit golf, but see a similar analogy in that playing tennis is like writing ...
I had to look twice at your name, Marie. My middle name is Marie and my last name was Straight! And you're Marie Staight....anyhow, thanks for the note. You're right. Tennis could be like writing....
I get the brilliant analogy, Cathy! But golf? Try to get that tiny ball in a tiny hole amid ALL that acreage? Not this girl. I'm a writer - I have enough frustration in my life!!!!
Wishing you many hole in ones. (holes in one?)
It's "hole in ones." You totally had it right, Laura. And I think you'd dig golf on some quiet country course. It's super relaxing...when the ball behaves.
Thanks! My husband is an avid golfer. You are right, there are some great lessons there!
My husband and your husband would probably be playing golf all today together, Loretta....
I "learned" golfing using Wiffle balls. My coach said, "Sam, there are six things you should know about your golfing... and you are doing all twelve of them wrong!" You are correct, Cathy: PRACTICE is the key. in golf and in writing and in cooking stir fry and in dancing and in archery and in ceramics and in painting (watercolor) and in......
Yep. Sam, practice, practice, practice. It is endless...that's why I read a ton. Because I love stories and books, but also to improve my writing.
Hi Cathy, I'm a golfer too, and came to it in a similar way. I love golf! I think any new skill learned is a good thing, and golf is a lot like writing that way. I can be fun and frustrating at the same time. You have your good days and your bad days. You get compliments once in awhile, and raised eyebrows or smirks other times. If you want to make a living at it, you need to immerse yourself completely and plan on spending big bucks for a great coach and plenty of lessons. Thanks for a post that made me smile.
Anngmesa, don't spend "big bucks" to get better as a writer. I found that reading books on how to write, going to community college writing classes, and paying one editor, one time, was very helpful.
Very very funny. I loved it. Yes, there have been many times I wanted to chuck my computer in the lake, but like golf clubs, that would be too expensive.
Evelyn, right! No throwing the clubs in the lake!! No throwing computers in the lake. If you have to throw one, throw the clubs.
I write and play golf, but never saw the connections until you pointed them out. The main thing they have in common is you can't let bad days drag you down. On the course, there are days my swing disappears and days everything seems easy; same for writing, and there is always that one great shot or one great line that keeps you coming back.
I completely understand what you're saying. I had a couple of good golf shots last night. I also hit trees, the sides of two homes, and lost a ball in someone's garden with a house on the course...
Terrific post, Cathy! I don't golf, but I do play tennis, and many of the same comparisons apply. I'd add the importance of sportsmanship in golf, tennis, AND writing: rejoice in the victories of others, rather than despair if they do better or envy them to the point where it interferes with your own athletic or creative journey. Having more great athletes OR writers only makes the game more fun.
Exactly, Holly. I think all writers and golfers should support each other. Especially when we're swearing at golf balls or swearing at computer screens.
I love this post, Cathy!
I started golfing five years ago and use it as a way to unwind after a long writing session. Number five is my favorite.
I just can't believe that I like golfing. But it's beautiful, easy, the weather has been really nice. I'm not training for any competition, so there's no stress. It IS a way to unwind, you are right.
Never thought of this comparison. But as an occasional (and awful) golfer, I can see the similarities. I would add one thing to #5: Never throw your laptop out a ten story window. Also too expensive. 😛
Beverly, no laptops should be thrown, ever! Throw chocolate. Throw a marshamallow. Throw a steak. No throwing of laptops!
Thanks for the memories, Cathy. My dad bought my mom a very nice set of clubs. And lessons. She took the lessons but never played one round with my father, or anyone else. When he finally talked me into going to the "executive" course with him--note, not the club where he played every week--I thought, "I can do this. I'm good at miniature golf." Even though my mother passed her genes for athletic uncoordination to me.
The first couple of holes were okay. My dad told me what to do and I tried. He was just grateful I was there. The third hole my ball hooked into the lake. I laughed. "This is not a laughing matter," my dad huffed. The rest of the experience went downhill. Thank goodness an "executive" course is only nine holes. I'll take writing any day!
That is so interesting that your dad said, "This is not a laughing matter." My. Lotta pressure! When I hit the side of a house last night with a golf ball, I thought my son would die laughing. I think my husband and son think I'm around on the golf course, as a beginning golfer, "For entertainment purposes only." Enjoy the writing, Fae!
Golf is a difficult sport. I bought a pair of used clubs at the ski team yard sale and went up with my boys to hit a few buckets of balls. As if it's not hard enough without two teenagers telling you you're doing it wrong.
I think I'll stick with skiing. After almost thirty years, my husband finally got his girl from Tahoe to get a season pass. It's not easy, mostly because my brain tries to convince my body that hurling myself down the mountain on slick waxed boards is NOT a good idea. But there's a bar at the top of the mountain, and once I let go of the idea that I'm supposed to fight gravity, it's actually pretty fun. And if I want to spend any time at all with my teenagers, I've got to strap on the skis.
I still have a ways to go with skiing. Some days it seems like it's harder than when I was first starting. I think that means I'm growing. Same thing with writing. Some days the words flow, effortlessly gliding across the screen like that perfect run on a fresh powder day. Other days, getting the words out is like the shortcut from the parking lot to the lifts at West Bowl, and I crash three times before I even get to the run. But I get back up and try again. I will only improve if I keep going.
Kristina, it is so funny that you talked about skiing here. I took up skiing, because my son was on the ski team, about six years ago. I had skied, TOTAL, about 8 times before then. I was, and AM, terrible. I didn't get the fearlessness that your kids are getting now, and that my son got, as children. I didn't get the rhythm. My husband LOVES to ski and wants me to ski with him, but FINALLY I can golf instead...and sneak out of skiing. I LIKE skiing, but I don't love it at all. So I totally relate to your story about your husband and your boys!! What we do for our children....it is endless...
I'll stick with mini golf. 😉
Great analogy, though.
Mini golf is perfect, Denise.
You forgot 'Swing that club fast but with controlled power' and write just as fast but with such controlled power you blow the socks off the reader. Great comparison. Thanks.
We can attempt to blow the socks off our fellow golfers and readers...I have an image in my head. Now I'm laughing....
Personally I'm a big fan of mini golf - but I think the analogy works whichever one you play.
Cathy, there is a simple way to make golf really fun. No, not drinking a shot each hole, although I know golfers that do that. (I'd be asleep by the fifth hole).
No the secret of happy golf is BEST BALL. By just playing from the ball of whoever hit that shot better, there is none of that frustration of trying to find your ball for 15 minutes, or wading into the lake, which you cannot do in Florida anyway (cuz alligators). Playing best ball allows my husband and I to play together in harmony, since we both win and all the pressure is off. I will say, we have been known to call to the clubhouse for more balls since sometimes no one hits the ball well. That's when the swear words come out. 🙂
Thanks for a fun analogy,Cathy--especially the part about not throwing your clubs in the water. An unintentional sidebar is that you (and Jenny Hansen) brought back a sudden vivid memory of my father. He was an avid golfer (never fewer than 36 holes a day), and a stickler for The Rules. He had absorbed the St. Andrews handbook through his skin, and the terms "sand pit" or "sand trap" sent him into apoplexy. "There's no such thing," he'd inform any listener. It's a "bunker." I include Jenny because that "best ball" thing was another of his triggers. Anyone inviting him to play in a threesome or foursome was subjected to a lecture about how the suffix "some" meant you were playing the same ball.
So thanks, too, for the reminder of my dad's quirks. I'll be smiling all day.
Yes, golf and writing have their unique pitfalls. And they indeed are strange bedfellows. Your compare and contrast adds to the logic. Now if I can master one of them I will be satisfied.
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