“Don’t laugh,” I told Steve. A couple of years before, he’d rented me my first pair of skis. The spring of 2008, I had big news to tell him. “I’m a ski instructor at Meadows!”
And that, dear readers, is my full disclosure. I teach skiing part time at Meadows Ski Resort to support my skiing habit.
Now, as it snows and snows up the mountain, Meadows’ spring pass just went on sale, and happy bluebird days are ahead, I present some thoughts about skiing. Skiing and writing. Parallel tracks.
IT’S FUN NO MATTER WHAT LEVEL YOU’RE AT
I liked my first turns on the bunny hill, carrying poles across my arms like a tray. Because I talked big, the afternoon of my first day my instructor took us to harder green runs than the next-step Buttercup. I had spectacular spills on what felt like canyon walls, yet was game for more. I loved it already.
I now drop into bowls, have made friends with bumps, and prefer visibility while skiing but know it’s not essential. I love skiing almost any way.
Writing poetry, maybe more to understand and express feelings than to create art? Wonderful.
Letters to friends with felicitously-turned phrases? Very good.
Picture book sketches? Scenes for multiple novels-in-progress? First draft of the one you decide to stick with? BEAUTIFUL.
YOU CAN ALWAYS GET BETTER
I took lessons from the first, then practiced, focusing on one improvement or another.
I continue to practice. You know… Gradually initiating turns. Completing them properly. Being balanced over my skis. Not dropping my hands.
And I learn from other instructors, both skiing with them and participating in clinics with instructors so good they teach other instructors. I love knowing that when the best skiers on our mountain go catch some turns, even they still talk about what they can do better.
Write, write, and write some more.
Let your writing sit, look at it again, and revise.
Read about writing.
Go to conferences.
Repeat. : )
YOU LEARN WHEN YOU TEACH
I now know about my anterior tibialis, the muscle that should be firing for proper shin contact with boots. (Thank you, Rick Lyons! When I grow up, I am going to ski like you.) As an instructor, you learn to analyze someone’s movements. You learn how to break down and explain the mechanics involved in improving one’s skiing. And you show it all. Talking and demonstrating, you yourself learn.
I write instinctively, drawing from the knowledge of writing and story imbuing me from my lifelong love affair with books. Yet, designing my “Shaping a Story” school visit presentation, I took time to think analytically and isolate the building blocks of story. I extracted for others and for myself, and have ready for constant review, the basics we use without thinking but overlook at our peril.
Invited for a three-day visit as Poet-in-Residence at an area school, I verbalized for myself and others why in fact we need seemingly unessential poetry. That is an important affirmation I wouldn’t have arrived at if I hadn’t needed to articulate it for others.
Look for opportunities to teach others. It will stretch you and you will learn more about what you know.
IT’S MORE FUN WITH FRIENDS
In early days, I went up to the mountain more or less alone. So, apart from lessons, I skied solo. I so loved to ski, I didn’t care. Not too much, anyway.
It’s more fun now, with friends. To talk with on the lift. To wait when you have a spill. To praise your turn shape, or point out adjustments that will improve your skiing. And then, to fly down the mountain with.
So too with writing. Writing is ultimately solitary, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Even as we go about our individual lives, I am warmed by the presence of the Scrivas out there.
Have a writing date with a writer buddy. Form a critique group. Have writing days together, or even retreats (learn from ours). Join a writers’ list-serv, and meet others at conferences. Then stay in touch with like-minded friends.
THE WHOLE MOUNTAIN WAITS TO BE EXPLORED
Once comfortable on groomed runs, it’s fun to go off piste. To learn of runs without posted names, like the Tunnel of Love and Crybaby. (Hi, Sasha! : )
To ski through the trees (though, hugely important, avoid tree wells! and ski with a friend). To catch air in the parks.
The whole mountain is yours: Explore it. Learn it. Love it.
So too in writing. There are different genres, or age levels to write for. That’s one of the things I love about our critique group: though we all write for young readers, we write everything. Not just picture books, or novels. Not just fiction, or non-fiction. Graphic novels, books about how to write… Everything.
IT’S ONLY HARD TILL YOU START
The other week, not needed at Meadows’ instructor line-up, I was released for the day. It was raining on the mountain, so I thought I’d go have a rare Saturday at home. But the friend I was catching a ride with, also released for the day, first wanted to take a couple of runs despite the rain. After all, he’d driven all the way up the mountain…
“Alright, I’ll join you,” I said. And we couldn’t stop skiing. We left some hours later, during which we worked on our turns at snail speed to figure out the bugs, then caught steeps for the sheer joy of it. In the meantime, the rain stopped and it turned into a bluebird day. I felt so privileged to be up there.
Often it’s hard to start writing. Then I get into the story, find flow, and don’t want to stop. It’s only hard till we get past that initial bump.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
I learned to ski as an adult, after wanting to for years. It took two things for me to finally do so: moving to Portland, with great skiing close enough that it didn’t have to be a rare and expensive destination vacation. And being able to afford it.
With writing, there’s no good reasons to wait. It’s practically free: pen and paper worked for Shakespeare, Milton, and a bunch more people you ‘ve heard of, some of them still alive. A computer is nice, but that can mean your old clunker with minimal processing power or one at your local library. You can reserve it in advance for an hour.
Harder yet, like anything worthwhile in life, writing takes time. Yet if we want it badly enough (see the inspiring blog Amber recently referenced), writing time can be found. Look for it, and make a long-desired dream happen. Write.