Writing and Surfing

AS A 12-YEAR-OLD growing up in Pompano Beach, I was given a surf board. I’d tuck it under my arm and ride my BMX across the causeway to Atlantic Beach and try to surf. I never quite did it right—-I am not a natural surfer. Not at all. But I loved it–loved trying anyway.

Well, at 48 we’ve just moved to Cape Canaveral (2 miles north of Ron Jon, 1 mile north of Cocoa Beach Pier) and I’ve picked up a beginner’s board, and I’m back into it. For real this time. I know that because I realized today, on my fourth day of trying, I have found a real love of the water. I think real writers love to write, I think that’s all it is. And not all authors are true writers, but that should be obvious and it’s not a bad thing at all. I’m not a CPA but I file tax returns, for example.

On day four, I was about ready to start standing, getting up on the board. I realized along the way that surfing is an aerobic exercise, at least getting beyond the breakers in rough water. And I realized, maybe the reason I sucked so bad as a kid was I thought about it too much. Maybe it’s like golf. Nothing will screw you up like lots of advice. (If you’re part evil, try pointing lots of things out about your golf buddy’s swing before you play!) I mentioned we’ve just moved and I’m very conscious that lifting a heavy box is easy if you just do it, and you don’t think about it too much.

Relevance? Lots of advice can be crippling. It’s best taken bit-by-bit and in a good sequence, and with an eye on having wins along the way. And if you find a love for your project or what you’re doing, you get to a point where it gets easy in many ways. A grey-bearded man in a wetsuit named Paul (I suspect he’s famous around here) Dawn and I met under the pier one day told me, “Once you stand up it’s easy. And then you just fall down the waves.”

Nice advice for writers. So many worry about grammar and how they read and so on, and they get kind of crippled before they even start.

I mention some of these things in my book, Creating Books, but here are a few keys:

  1. There will be an effort in the beginning, getting things going. But like surfing, if you don’t get past the breakers, you miss a lot of the beauty and the best waves. And once you “stand up” or find your groove, it gets easier.
  2. Embrace the concept of editing, it frees you up to write. On the ocean, go ahead and fall a lot. After watching the pro surfers this weekend I realized they too mis-judge waves, fall down, and so on.
  3. On day four of my surfing, I’m starting to think I’m ready for a lesson. Its been a blast diving in, but I think I’m ready for some advice not just off the beach, but in the surf, with a pro by my side. I’d like to get good sooner than later. Hire or learn from a pro.
  4. But most of all, find the joy in it. Otherwise you will stop before you might have otherwise.

Add to that, perhaps, to start using the lingo as much as you can with your spouse. They might roll their eyes but I think they dig it, deep down.

Maybe not?

Write Right Through!

Image (C) Pixabay

ONE OF THE MOST common questions, complaints, and concerns I hear is that a writer edits while they write, or stops and edits a chapter before moving on, and so on. They get stuck. Stephen King and so many others recommend you do not do this–-do not start editing until you have your first draft. Then edit all you like. In fact use placeholders, such as (in fiction) “crime scene.” Then you can go back and talk to cops about crime scenes and so on.

Not only does editing as you write slow you down or stop you, it can mess with your style and voice. Did you know you write “like you’re reading?” It’s true. Best if you read a particular author(s) exclusively if he/she/they pertain to what you’re working on. It will come through. Ever find yourself starting to use a slight southern drawl when in South Carolina, or a definite dialect when in New York? We are influenced by what we read and observe. Another reason to get quickly through your first draft.

For non-fiction, I’ve found it best to overshoot your word-count target. If a book is largely based on interviews and we’re writing a 50,000-word book, best to have something line 70,000 in transcribed words (not including all the questions and so forth).

Editing is about taking away and making clean and concise more than about adding where needed, and then about organizing and perfecting.

Anyway, a simple tip, but an important one, and a hard one for perfectionists to follow!

Recommended reading: On Writing by Stephen King