Monday, October 5, 2015


So a video went around recently of the Portland flame bagpipe player balancing on a ball while he played and it got me to thinking about my childhood. I never managed to walk on a ball because that is like three-dimensional balance, but my dad worked at a hardware store (owned it for a while) and would bring home these spools for cable and rope, and my friends and I would race on them.

Like this, only smaller (usually--I did use one of these sometimes)
We would set up obstacle courses in my basement where we couldn't touch the floor, walking on these from sofa to fireplace mantle to chair.

Outside our driveway was lined with river rock, cemented in to form a jagged spiky barrier between cement and grass, so that too, I would walk, poised on the points—some of them with no reasonable surface, others large enough to stop and make sure my balance was in place. When I reached the fence I'd then traverse that.
One of these--simple design

So I'd climb from rocks to the fence, walking on the lower with the upper between my knees for balance, but in some spots either the upper or lower was gone so I needed to balance across. Some of the planks were pretty wobbly in there...

It's not shocking that by junior high the balance beam came naturally to me. In fact for years I prided myself on superior balance. But as I age and my muscles tighten and my weight shifts it doesn't come nearly so easily as it once did.

How Does that Apply to Writing?

I think the practice practice practice lesson is incredibly applicable. If we want to be balanced and poised and not look like a fool sprawled on the floor then we need to keep in practice. Some of us will have more natural balance than others, but we can all do it if we work at it enough. But I think the tight muscles thing applies, too. If you do the SAME THING all the time it will start to pull you out of alignment. So even if you aren't ever going to PUBLISH in another genre, maybe give yourself some fun exercises once in a while.

With that in mind, I've decided I want to, in my “non-writing months” (when I'm editing, which is usually 9 months of the year) I am going to additionally write a short story in an off genre. I may or may not submit these. Probably depends on how they come out. But I really am in need of some regular stretching. That said, after the entry for the Insecure Speculative Anthology, I saw a submission request for WITCH stories. So I think I will try one of those (I have a couple witch ideas in my idea file). The deadline is November 30 if anyone else is interested.

So back on the spool, my friends!

What do all of you do to stay nimble as writers (or whatever your preferred art)?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hart - fascinating childhood ... I was pretty tomboyish .. but wouldn't have jumped from sofa to mantlepiece, to chair etc ... I did do lots of falling though and generally pushing myself ... my new hip has balanced me!

I think I lead a pretty balanced life ... and have kept my brain engaged, which is the main thing .. I too will be going off-piste in the writing mode in the coming months.

Good luck with your stories .. cheers Hilary

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice idea to expand into another genre during your editing phase!

I rolled in large barrels down hills. This I could do. I have a feeling that I'd not be able to stay on a spool. :) Looks like fun, though!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It is like exercising - we do the same routine over and over, out body grows used to it and no longer responds or gets better.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Good for you for trying new genes, stretching that writing muscle. I'm going to check out that call for witch stories - thanks for sharing!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I'm glad you're cranking out shorts as well as your longer fiction. I've not written a witch story yet. Must do that though. I love scary and weird stories the best.

Jan Morrison said...

Practice and extend into another discipline (or genre). Yep! Sounds right to me. I'm close on finishing this edit so maybe I will be able to consider another novel for November madness. hmmm... I've always wanted to do a sci fi. ah well, we'll see. I am promising nothing. Just flirting with the idea.

Arlee Bird said...

Maybe you should have gone to circus arts school. You might have had a career as a wire walker or something. I've never had much skill for balancing. These days I even feel a bit unbalanced sometimes when I'm just walking.

Maybe I need to use your suggestion of practicing more. I've always had a tendency to be all over the place.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have ideas for short stories but I always seem to be working on my novels. As we get older, our balance suffers because we lose muscle strength and flexibility.

Ann Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Bennett said...

I've been wrapping my head around walking on the spindles. It sounds like so much fun. Pushing 69,that is another thing I'll never do. LOL

Practice makes perfect or at least better, l agree.

dolorah said...

Those spools looked like a lot of fun. I'd never balance on a ball. I'd likely fall off the spools. We used to have barrel races, and I was always under the barrel, not on it, lol. Gads, what a long time ago that was!

I'm still working on balance; but I have a lot more free time now, so I don't know what my problem is.

Yolanda Renée said...

Could balance in my younger years, loved climbing rocks, could go as high as I wanted. Now things are different - hate aging! LOL

Congrats on the stretching the writing chops. Will check out the anthology, but still working on the IWSG submission. Get moving = me!!!!

Helena said...

Love the analogy you use, Hart. Trouble is, while you wisely point out that we need to stretch and balance our writing, I'm so inspired by that spool walking I just wanna go outside and play.