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How Can Playing Golf Train You to be a Better Writer?
I played on a league for one season and was worse at the end than when I started. I never quite got the hang of it. Oddly, looking back, I see playing golf gives us a metaphor for. . .
The afternoon sun is high and slightly behind the player's shoulder. A still quiet settles on the crowd as Lyon Steel steps up to the tee.
Lyon, picks a club, checks his grip, adjusts his feet and carefully draws the club back behind him. Then, with cat like reflexes, he lets go with his swing and drives the ball beautifully down the fairway.
It's going . . . going . . . and then without warning a slight breeze pushes the ball slightly of course, landing it in a sand trap.
The crowd sighs in disappointment but perks up in anticipation of the drama that is about to unfold before their very eyes.
For me, maybe for you too, writing is easier than golf. I played on a league for one season and was worse at the end than when I started. I never quite got the hang of it.
Oddly, looking back, I see playing golf gives us a useful metaphor for discussing the writing process.
For the golfer, preparing to tee off is outlining.
By picking the right club, the golfer has committed to one club, or in the case of the writer, one topic. With the chosen club in hand the golfer steps up to the tee and outlines his shot in his mind. He knows where he wants it to land, he sees the course before him as an audience he must address to drive the ball home.
Sand traps, writers block and other hazards.
Once the ball is in play, the direction is out of the hands of the golfer. In writer's parlance, we might say the article is off track or the author lost focus.
But, it is not what happens that matters, it is what we do about it that matters. So, golfers and writers return to their outlines, reorient by picking the right club and refocus their efforts on the intended goal.
When a golfer shanks a ball or slices off into the woods or water, it is a moment of frustration. Writer's block is like slicing or shanking. As writers we have the skills but just can't seem to get off the tee. Our minds go blank in disbelief. After a life time of experiences, we can't think of a thing to say.
For golfers and writers getting a little off track can build drama and curiosity.
How's this going to end?
But hazards are called hazards for a reason. They can be game breakers and quickly reduce a star player to an also played.
For writers, a hazard to be weary of is the disconnect. When our articles get too far off the point, we confuse our audience. And like watching a terrible golfer, curiosity quickly turns to “when's this going to end? I'm outta here.”
Is it time for a mulligan?
In golf, there is the mulligan. A mulligan is basically a 'do over.' It is an admission that the golfer got off to a bad start, and with agreement of the group, he gets to start over. But not too often, lest there would be no point in keeping score.
As writers, it is common to get off to a bad start. We have and idea and rush to jot them down, and it seems the more we write, the less we like where we are going. Maybe it is time to take the mulligan. Admit your are off track and move on to another idea.
As writers though, we have a a couple of advantages. First we don't have to admit to anyone our bad start or ask permission to start over. Second, instead of discarding our shot at an article, we can set it aside for future reference.
The final putt and closing paragraphs.
Golf games and articles must come to an end. For the golfer it is the final putt. After all his efforts, misdirections, hazards and perfect swings, it all comes down to the final putt.
Typical golfers prefer to have very short manageable putts. A lot rides on the final score and having to 2-putt or 3-putt can really hurt. But, when the golfer makes the 30 foot putt it is a spectacular ending.
As writers our closing paragraph is the final putt. Everything we have accomplished in the article can be made memorable or lost to oblivion in the final paragraph. However, unlike golfers, we may want to plan for the more spectacular putt than the safe one.
By building up a sense of drama, and closing with a powerful paragraph, we leave our reader with compulsion to discuss our article. But, double clutch it and the article will be put down, never to be thought of again. Our lessons lost and our reader disappointed.
After several hours in the hot sun, Lyon Steel finds himself 6 feet from the final flag on the 36th hole. From this angle, the sun is playing with his field of vision. It is nearly impossible to read the green. As he reached down to feel the grass for moisture and texture, he catches a glimpse of the terrain separating him from the grand prize.
Taking a deep breath and replaying everything he has accomplished this day, he briefly closes his eyes and sees the ball going into the hole. Relaxed now, he gently taps the ball.
The crowd, restless with anticipation, watches as the ball is leaves the putter and heads towards the hole. The question on everyone's mind is “how will this end?”
Learn more about the author, Dave Hayden.
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