Monday, January 25, 2010

Writing and Figure Skating: A Metaphor

My exotic hometown of Spokane was the site of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this past two weeks. Thanks to my generous brother, I had the opportunity to attend two of the events - the ladies short program and the champions' skate on Sunday. I have discovered that the world is made up of two kinds of people - those that love ice skating and those that hate it. My runner husband does not consider figure skating real athletics. Another male friend said that watching skating is like watching paint dry. I didn't feel up to asking what he thought of writers, even though he is acknowledged in my Alcatraz book. But I digress. Those of you who hate skating may stop reading now. Please. But Liza Ketchum emailed me that she noticed the Spokane logo while watching the championships on TV. So hopefully a few of you are interested.

As I watched the women skaters come off the ice and into the arms of their coaches, I wished for that, too. Wouldn't it be grand to get a hug after every writing session, applause from the audience when we write a delightful sentence and teddy bears thrown around our desk after three hours of BIC - Jane Yolen's "butt in chair?" Then again it would not be so grand to hear a moan every time readers aren't impressed with a description, a plot turn, an opening to a chapter, like the crowd did every time a skater bobbled or fell.

Female skaters wear loads of makeup and glittery costumes. We can write in our pj's before even brushing our teeth. But that's not accurate. We dress up for readings and presentations. And skaters likely don't look so glamourous at their early morning practices. It all comes down to the same thing - loving the process enough to stick with it through the down days, BIC/SOI (skates on ice) every day. hoping for the brilliant triple axel or metaphor, but generally thankful for just getting the job done. Thankful that we have the opportunity to bring stories to life on ice or on the page.

I loved the passion many of the skaters brought to the ice. But they are so young. All the American gold medalists were introduced at Sunday's event. 1956 women's Olympic champion Tenley Albright looked fabulous, but she didn't skate. I hope to be writing at her age and until I die. How about you?


  1. I can't believe I missed the nationals.

    Having just started a new book, after about a year of angst, I realize how badly I need a coach waiting for me in the kiss-and-cry. I could do without the scores, though. And the outfits.

  2. And having Scott Hamilton editorialize my every move would be unnerving. "This is the most difficult part of her routine, the double plot twist. She hasn't made it in practice all week, and she's GOT to be exhausted after that complicated scene setting sequence..."

  3. Unnerving, yes, but at least he'd understand. Double plot twists are tough.

  4. But maybe wearing at least a tiara (and for the brave, a diamond-studded, flesh-colored leotard) while you attempted the double plot twist would actually serve as an effective distraction from its degree of difficulty?

  5. I am ALL ABOUT tiaras! Still working on the double plot twist.

  6. Claire… I can admit that I can appreciate ice skating and admire the physical and technical aspects of the “sport.” Skating for these women (and men) is not a “hobby,” it is a serious, career and life altering way of being. Your comparison was great, and serves as a reminder, like Stephen King says in On Writing, “Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” It really irritates me when someone talks about writing as a hobby. Is it a “sport” then? Is that the word we use to describe contests where one attempts to outperform other individuals with technical skill, prowess, and originality? I know how to skate; I am not attempting to go to Nationals in skating. But I am attempting to make it to Nationals in creative writing…