Monday, September 10, 2012

Hook, Slice or Sinker


A sportswriter was once asked if he were to compare writing to a sport, which sport would he choose. Without even thinking, he replied, “Golf. Most definitely golf.”

The interviewer asked, “Why golf?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” the sportswriter asked rhetorically. “Golfers golf for the love of the game. Writers write for the love of their craft. Do you understand?”

The interviewer started to nod, but shook his head instead. “No.”

The sportswriter laughed. “Golfing offers personal satisfaction and fulfillment, adventure, discipline, structure, freedom and leisure.”

“But what does all that have to do with writing?”

“You don’t golf, do you?”


“What about miniature golf?”

“Well yeah, I’ve done that.”

“There you go.”


“Come on. It’s almost my tee-time. I’ll walk you through the analogy while I’m waiting for my teammates.”

Together the two men walked out of the Country Club bar and around back towards the golf course. His waiting caddy looked at his watch. “You’re early.”

“We just came back here for some fresh air.”

The caddy nodded and walked off.

The sportswriter gestured, “This is the first step.”

“What’s the first step?”

“Second base.”

“You know, Abbott & Costello Who’s on First, What’s on Second? I’m sorry. OK, I’ll get serious. The first step in golfing is deciding to play. The first step in writing is making a decision to write. Do you agree?”

The interviewer nodded.

“It's a nice summer day and you decide to play miniature golf. You drive to the most popular course and park your car next to all the others. You walk past the vending machines and video games to the back of the arcade where you pay five bucks to get a putter, a colored golf ball and a scorecard. You walk out the back, down past the driving range up to the first hole. The flag says 'par 3', but you don't let that intimidate you. Now you study the hole, picturing in your mind where you want to put the ball and mentally selecting the spot along the side to bank it against. You take a 'walk on the wild side' by not putting the ball in the worn depression, but in a new spot at the edge of the putting green. Your hands start to sweat ever so slightly as you straddle over the ball, legs slightly bent, hands gently wrapped around the faux leather grip of the club. You take a deep breath as you glance to your left, mentally envisioning a dotted line down the worn Astroturf to the crack in the wood beneath the pots of purple petunias. You look down at your golf ball, exhale slowly, and glance down the runway again one last time. You shift your weight slightly, slowly draw back the putter, then you strike the ball. It rolls down the green pathway, striking several inches from the crack causing it to bounce off the course all together. Some may say you hooked the ball while others may say you sliced it. Whatever it’s called, you hit it wrong.”

“I’ve done that.”

“Exactly. Everyone has done that. Now you have to run after the ball and start all over again. This time, the ball hits the crack, ricochets correctly, rolls under the lighthouse, right into the hole. A sinker! A hole in one! Well, a hole in two, but who’s counting? What matters is you made the hole under par and you move on.”

“That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with writing?”

“As I said earlier, the first step in writing is making a decision to write. Once that decision is made, you choose where you’re going to write.”

“What do you mean where?”

“Do you have an office? Maybe you’re more creative at sunrise and you bring your laptop into the sunroom where the morning rays inspire you. Maybe you prefer the old-fashioned way: using paper and pencil. Maybe you jot notes while riding the train or subway or talk into a micro-cassette recorder while you’re walking the dog. The key is to write where and how it works for you. That’s your putter, your ball and your scorecard. Are you with me so far?”


“Staring at a blank page or monitor can be overwhelming. You know—like a ‘par 3’? But you go on. Maybe you’re the kind of writer who has the whole idea in his head. You know exactly how the story will go; exactly what will happen. You just need to coax it out. You start writing, but a bit of new dialog pops into your mind. You like it and suddenly, not only do the new words come to life, your story now veers off on a tangent that never existed before. You hooked or sliced the ball!”

“I’ve done that too.”

“Sure. You’re not alone. Do you like the new plotline? If you don’t, just hit that delete button and start all over again. If you do, keep going. Before you know it, your story is done. A hole in one!”

“That makes sense. I never looked at writing that way. But what about adventure, freedom and leisure?”

“Personal satisfaction and fulfillment in golf is completing the game to the best of your ability. In writing it’s completing the piece from start to finish. Golf can be very leisurely—not to be rushed. It’s more than the game. It’s enjoying the weather, the walk, the companionship. Writing can be time consuming, but unless you’re under a deadline, you work at a speed comfortable to you. When you hit a golf ball, the slightest turn of the club can change its flight and direction. That’s why body position and posture is so important. Writing is the same way. You may know where a story is going, but often it will surprise you and take on a life of its own. You not only need discipline to keep a story on track, but the discipline to keep working even if you think you have nothing to say.”

The interviewer nodded again. “I’ve had writer’s block in the past. It’s not fun.”

“No, it isn’t, but you persevere. My favorite things about golf are that it’s both an adventure and an escape. You’re at the mercy of the weather and the condition of the course. Writing allows you to work on a variety of subjects. You can expand you knowledge base and challenge yourself by writing is styles different from the norm. Writing is a learning experience, and like golf, you can always improve your game. And, it’s an escape--an escape from the daily routine and a chance to get out in the fresh air. Writing is an escape because you can submerge yourself in your story. You can be whatever or whoever you want to be: a spy, the president, a writer, a chef, a soldier, a robot, a boxer, even a golfer.”

“Can I quote you on that?”

“You can have every word. There are plenty more where those came from.”