I know the Olympics are over, but here’s one last horrible writing analogy

image Though the Olympic flame as been extinguished and the final portable commode pumped dry, I’m still thinking of polymer-wrapped ski jumpers leaning forward and flying silently through the air toward a graceful — seemingly magical — touchdown near the Subway Sandwich banner. There are several reasons this image has stuck with me, including the many stark contrasts between these jumpers and when I attempted something similar, using a pair of roller skates and my children’s backyard slide. I’m not going to get into the details here because 1) this is supposed to be a post about writing, and 2) I can’t risk putting my kids back into therapy.

All I will tell you is that there was a fair amount of screaming (from me, not the kids), not much “hang time” and a nearly fatal touch-down, which was technically more of an Olympic-sized face-plant. And we’ll just leave it at that. But for anyone who saw my “pole dancing” video knows I’m not exaggerating.

Believe it or not, there’s actually a reason I brought up ski jumping in regard to this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing. I realize this isn’t always the case. However, as I watched the Olympics I couldn’t help but think of how, from start to finish, the act of ski jumping is an analogy for what a writer goes through, from manuscript to publication. Except without the risk of landing in a tree (depending on your publisher’s marketing plan.)

Step one: At the top of the slope
Just like a ski jumper looking out over the expanse of winter-blanketed hills, all writers have experienced that inspired moment when they find themselves at a literary vista; when a story or novel idea suddenly materializes before them and it is breathtaking and full of possibilities. And just like ski jumpers, once the magnitude of what they are about to embark on settles in, there is a sudden moment of panic as they question the logic of what they’re doing. Or at the very least, whether they should’ve used the restroom before getting sealed into that polymer jumpsuit. For this reason, I stopped wearing a polymer jumpsuit while writing.

Step two: Get into position
This is when the ski jumper, or writer as the case may be (although I wouldn’t suggest doing them simultaneously), commits to taking what is essentially a leap of faith. There is no turning back at this point. In most cases, it’s because the writer or ski jumper is too driven — by the possibilities and potential — to step away from the jumping-off point. Oftentimes there is someone standing behind them, such as a coach or publisher, offering encouragement and support. And holding a golf club for no apparent reason.

Step three: Down the slope
This is when the ski jumper or writer gains momentum while battling resistance through a combination of fortitude and technique. For both, this portion of the jump is the most critical because its execution will dictate how far they fly and how successful the landing will be. Trust me, as the aluminum foil winner of the backyard slide jump, I can tell you from experience that poor execution at this point can lead to disappointment. And hundreds of views on YouTube. For a writer, this is a time of mixed emotions like exhilaration (This is going to be AWESOME!), second guesses (Should I have gone to trade school?) and self realization (A grilled cheese sandwich sounds really good right now). For a ski jumper, this time is focused on achieveing victory through clearing their mind of everything but a single thought (Oh crap… oh crap… oh crap)

Well, that’s what I was thinking anyway.

Step four: Off the jump
This is when the true leap of faith comes into play, literally and figuratively, depending on your level of health coverage. All the preparation — the endless revisions, the constant adjustments in phrasing, the countless hours of re-writing — all led to this moment as you take to the air and survey what you have created based on your initial discovery of this literary vista! You lean forward, tuck your arms to your sides and hold your breath — hoping to remain suspended and within full view of the world for as long as possible!

Then reality sets in: I still have to LAND this thing!

Step five: The landing
At first glance (assuming you had your eyes open during the jump), the landing appears to be the end. It’s the part where you return to Earth and touch down gracefully before sliding to a stop in front of the Subway banner. Friends and family are there to applaud you. Maybe even Jared is there. Regardless, You look back to the judges and see how well you scored.

The end, right?

Not exactly. As I’ve discovered through the process of having my first book published, the landing is just the beginning in many ways. If you executed well in the air, it makes the landing more successful but, like an Olympic ski jumper, the work continues in order to build on that last jump — so that you can fly higher, go farther and avoid that leg cramp next time. In other words, just because you’ve stuck the landing doesn’t it’s time to stop waxing your skis. It just means it’s time to get more wax.

The only exception to this is if you are attempting a second run on the backyard slide jump, in which case wax is a really bad idea.

Trust me, I know.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

22 thoughts on “I know the Olympics are over, but here’s one last horrible writing analogy”

  1. This is exactly what I went through last week, sans the polymer suit, and the roller skates, and OK, there was no slide involved either, but it felt like it.
    You are awesome at being able to describe the process and help us all learn and feel better about it for sure, but nothing says feel better, it could be worse than, Pole Dancing videos 1 & 2.
    And maybe a copy of your book – which continues to inspire life changing thoughts. What will I do when I finish it. Where will I turn Ned? Are you working on book 2 yet? 🙂

  2. For a moment I was worried I was going to see video of you jumping off a ski slope, and given your take on pole dancing my guess is you’re better at writing than jumping 100 meters through the air at the speed of a car, regardless of how fitting the analogy is…
    And taking into account your rollerskating adventure/near death experience, I’m happy for both you and your kids the Olympics are over.
    Great post, though…I really like this analogy. It inspired me to take off my polymer jumpsuit too. Thank you, Ned.

  3. great analogy, ned. and i really like to wear my spandex onsie while writing, with my squirrel mascot standing nearly. in the spirit of the olympics of course.

  4. Now comes the random drug testing and the stripping of your medal as you insist you were only in the same room with the guys smoking the pot. But way to stick the landing anyway.

  5. Ned, your analogy causes me to shudder. Good writing, well explained, very funny and scary for me personally. You see I took skiing lessons at an early age and after the very first lesson, where we were taught to stand and ski in straight lines on a bunny slope, I decided to practice in our backyard. There was a considerable slope there ending at the house. As I was whizzing down the hill, wind in my face, I realized that I had not yet been taught to stop or turn. It was a bit late at that point and I hit the foundation of the house at full speed and broke both new skis cleanly off right in front of the bundings. My face met the house and required a quick trip to emergency to staighten out my face – much like your pole dancing face plant except vertically administered on a house at a much higher speed.

    So, you see, I haven’t been able to write a book since and I blame it all on that skiing accident. I am so sure that I would have been a world famous author by now had I just had two lessons before attempting to ski. Sigh. Oh, well that’s my lot in life and I just have to accept it. Any suggestiions?

    1. That’s a sad story, Paul, and I hope my post didn’t bring back too many traumatic memories. In regard to writing that book, I’d suggest you face your fears head-on (maybe not the best term to use, sorry) and write a novella while on skis. Only then will you be able to move on. You know, after you’re out of traction.

  6. Nothing you do is horrible, Ned.
    Well, I heard your scrambled eggs suck, but that’s only because you haven’t been single in some time…

  7. Considering how much work an author has to do after the book goes to the publisher, I thought perhaps this would work – the author makes his landing, then someone hands him a set of poles & he has to start a marathon biathalon race (promoting said book)!

No one is watching, I swear...

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