The Writing Flail, Let Me Show You It

I took a long flight recently, and decided to do some novel writing on the flight. In order to maximize odds of this happening, I took no reading material. If I wanted to be entertained, I would have to write. No escape.

The scene I needed to write was one I’d been fretting over and dreading for a long time. The characters in my novel play the Mayan ball game. (Or a very ancient proto-version of it.) I had been glossing over details of the game in my draft, but I needed to write a scene where the details matter, very much, to the whole story. Everything hinges on that game, and I can’t gloss over it.

But I can’t write a detailed sports scene! I’m not sporty! I’m not one of those sports writing, sports talking kind of sporty mcsporterson types who have all of the jargon to lay down an exciting play-by-play. I’m science writer girl. I write funny and sometimes serious things about fuzzy octopoid aliens. I’m a nerd!

Before I can write that scene, I definitely would need to research the whole sportswriting thing. Find some books with similar scenes and study them. Dissect them.

So, on the plane, with nothing to do but write this scene and a four hour flight ahead of me, I spent about an hour and a half restlessly looking out the window. Then I finally wrote some words.

Might as well do some kind of summary of the troublesome scene, right? Since I can’t actually write it, I’ll just insert a fumbling placeholder kind of thing. I’ve got nothing better to do. Hey, are those clouds?

So, there I am. Writing a sentence here. A sentence there. And suddenly I could see it. I could see the game. I knew where the players were. I knew what was happenig.

1400 words later, my sporty mcsporterson scene was written. And you know what? I’m DAMN sporty. That’s why my book has a sporty theme. Because I LIKE it. Because I’ve sat through (and played) my share of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, water polo, kick the can, dodgeball, etc. and I wanted some of that in my book!

People, I forgot that I am not a nerd. In fact, I am a jock. Varsity letter three out of four years. But in my writer panic–in my brain’s DESPERATION to do anything other than write the actual scene, I psyched myself out. Convinced myself I couldn’t do it.

Aren’t you glad you don’t have to live inside my head? Aren’t you glad it’s not your job to motivate me to write?