Wednesday, July 3, 2013

IWSG: Actually Falling Off the Horse

If you haven’t seen one of these yet, than get yourself over to the Ninja Captain’s hide out, hop on the linky and join the fun. Today is the first Wednesday of the month, and it’s time to release our fears, anxieties, and insecurities out into the world. Got those covered this month? Great, then lend a hand and spread some encouragement. This month the co hosts are Nancy Thompson, Mark Koopmans, and Heather Gardner, so be sure to head over to their blogs and give them a shout out for lending a hand.

Lately, my family has been asking me why I do it. Why do I go through all the trouble of the pain and rejection and self doubt that is a part of writing (it’s a part of life too, we just don’t talk about all the rejection in life because it doesn’t always come in a nicely worded letter that says "No."). I tried to explain how this business of writing is really about getting up, but that somehow doesn’t cover it. I know you’ve all heard that sage old saying about getting back on the horse after you’ve fallen off, so let me tell you a story about falling off a horse.

When I was a kid, my family didn’t have money for nice horses. My father traded a broken down car and a pile of scrap metal for a broken down horse and a pile of scrap metal that vaguely resembled a horse trailer. The horse was 22, named Rocko, and probably the most wonderful gift my father had ever given me. I could sum this horse up in two words: Quirky and Clumsy.

That’s not a good combinations in a half ton creature you plan to send hurtling off into the wilds with a 13 year old on its back. Oh yeah, I was 13 when I got Rocko the Wonder horse. He ate hamburgers and drank soda, and if you weren’t careful, he’d eat your hair (He must have thought it was hay). And like all teenagers, I just wanted to go as fast as possible, so we’d race our horses along the vineyard roads where I grew up. Now, considering that my horse liked soda and cheeseburgers, you can imagine he wasn’t an athlete. I didn’t win.

So there we were, racing through a freshly plowed field next to a vineyard, going just as fast as we possibly could (and I’ll have you know, we took riding horses fast VERY seriously… even if the horses didn’t actually go that fast). And for once, I was in the lead. My spavined horse could feel it, too. We were winning. It felt incredible. We were homing in on the end, running and riding for all we were worth, all the other horses (and not a few ponies) were behind us.

Winning a horse race feels a lot like flying.

At least, it feels like that right up until your horse trips out from under you. My horse did cartwheels in the dirt. Later, when we went over crash site, the scar in the field stretched for almost fifteen meters. I have no rightly idea how I lived, but when I came to, I was at the bottom of an unhappy pile of horse. He got up, and I was able to breathe. Then that twit wandered over to the grapes and started munching on them like nothing had happened.

I had to get up because we weren’t allowed to let the horses eat the vines. The owners didn’t mind us riding in the vineyards, but they got hopping mad if the horses damaged the plants. So I stood up, checked for broken bones (none!) and caught my horse.

Then I got back on my horse and rode home.

My friends all snickered and laughed at me, making fun of how my horse did cartwheels in the dirt and they’d never seen someone fly so high. I laughed along with them, but inside I was hurting. Not the physical pain. There was plenty of that, but I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry. I had been winning. I’d made it to the top of the cool kid pile for seconds. I’d believed I was awesome, and then it was gone. In that one moment, I was forever relegated to the rider of a horse so pathetic he couldn’t even run through a field.

I smiled and laughed with them, but all the way home I wondered: Was it my fault? Had I thrown him off balance? Did I give him some signal? Did I miss something really obvious to cause my—literal!—downfall? Did he just trip over a rock?

And then, a couple days later, it was time to go for a ride again. Alone, I saddled my horse. It was easy to get on the horse when my friends were all standing around and laughing—well, easier; I was shaking quite a bit. But when they were laughing, it was easy because everyone was there, and I knew what I had to do. You get back on the horse, just as soon as you can, but days later, it was different. My ribs still ached, and I was scared. What if he tripped again? What if the next time he didn’t get up in time, and I expired while he laid on me? No one was there to see; I could just quietly go back inside. I was scared, and not a little bit. My hands shook as I put the saddle on. There was no one to see me, so why did I engage in an act of complete idiocy? Why did I push through such mental and physical pain? It’s simple really:

I wanted to ride.

When you start to let your hopes take flight, a rejection feels a lot like that moment I realized my horse was going down. It was a fact. I knew I was going to hit dirt and hard. When I close my eyes I can still see the dirt rushing up and my arms stretched out in front of me like I could catch the ground and keep it from hurting me. Rejection is like that moment when you realize, you’re Buzz Lightyear, and you are *not* a flying toy.

So, why do we writers put up with rejection? Why do we throw ourselves out there time and time again? Why do we quietly send out more query letters/write more books/seek criticism from our lovely betas and CPs? Why do we put ourselves through all that pain and doubt and fear?

It’s simple: we want to write.

28 comments:

  1. I loved this post. I could really see you galloping along on your beloved horse! You are right though, we do it because we love it and we have to in the hope that one day we may get to the finish line first.

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    1. It's the craziest thing, I can't stop writing. I've tried to quite and focus on the other things in my life, but never, not once has it panned out.

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  2. Oh my gosh. I could reread this post a dozen times. What an awesome analogy. Rena, thank you for this. Really. It totally helped me today!

    (And I'm laughing at your cure for exclamation points!)

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    1. SANTA!!!!!

      And you're totally welcome. I always shy away from the obvious ones, but sometimes I have to bludgeon myself about the head and shoulders to really get the message.

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  3. You're a brave lady. I rode a horse once and it scared the crap out of me. But you are totally right. Writing is hard, brutal work. There is rejection at every turn. Even when you get to hit publish, there are still the readers to weigh in on your work.

    Athletes understand too. Why do they train and train for something that is only a game? It's understanding desires and dreams. It can't be understood; it's felt.

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    1. Writing is brutal work, and Yes athletes work like crazy for a game. Dreams are dreams, and I couldn't stop writing if I really really wanted to.

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  5. Very well put Rena.

    I've fallen several times (and not just from horses, bikes too), broke my wrist once. Yes, the nerves do act up. I got back on the horse because I wanted to ride and because I needed to conquer that fear to get back to what I enjoyed. Writing is the same. I want to get back to the adventures of my world--whichever one I happen to be in.

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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    1. I've had a few really bad falls, but I always got back into it. I did get out of the business of owning horses just before heading off to college. That was hard. Writing has been like that, too. I can't seem to leave it.

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  6. What a fabulous post. I love the analogy and the description of your horse - he sounds adorable. What you say is so true. I've tried to give up writing for the sake of my sanity but something in me just wants to carry on. C'est la vie!

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    1. He was sort of adorable, in that Charlie Brown Christmas tree sort of way.

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  7. What an amazing and beautiful story, you've said what writing is all about perfectly!

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    1. Thanks. Other parts of writing are different, but I'm definitely going through the cartwheels in the dirt phase.

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  8. kwumsy!
    what i take from your awesome, miraculous story is you survived! both of you! and you got back on! thats the ultimate proverb justification!

    and the same for writing. keep on, lady! we need your books!

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    1. In D&D, they usually have fate points, where you get to pull out a get out jail free card, a "Oh no, that did not just happen to my character." If they have those in real life, I used one then!

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  9. Great story! I need to read this again tonight, when it's late and I'm debating whether to keep writing or go to bed.

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    1. That's the ultimate right there: write another few paragraphs or turn in early. I struggle with that all the time!

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  10. Awesome! I had goosebumps at the end of your post because that's exactly it. What we do when no one's looking is the essence of who we really are. (and that goes for story characters too!) Putting my work out there scares me to death, but the times when someone loves what I've written makes it worth it.
    Keep putting your words out there, Rena. I think you're getting close to the winner's circle!
    (Any chance we could see a photo of Rocko the Wonder Horse?)

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    1. I'll see what I can do about a picture of Rocko the Wonder Horse. Maybe I'll post one tomorrow.

      But yeah, that moment saddling him up was one of those moments where you get to know who you are (I'm a very stubborn coward, by the way).

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  11. Rena, this is a beautiful post. (And proof right here, that you ARE a great writer. I'm all teared up!) We have to keep getting back on that horse. It's the ones who do who win. :) And you'll get there.

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    1. Thanks, Rachel. I'm not stopping any time soon, but I'll admit that learning how to pick yourself up off the ground is not an easy lesson.

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  12. I go through bouts of saying I'll quit, but I think I'd die of madness if I gave up writing. As for horse riding, well, that's a whole other story. I was tossed so much as a kid that I lost my love for the beasts. I do like to admire them from afar, but I'll never get on one again, lol. :D

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  13. i love horses, so this was a good story for me! but hey, we go through all this for a reason, it's the chance we take because we know something we have is worth it!

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  14. Glad you weren't squished!
    It is in the moments alone when we hesitate. But if we want the rewards of writing we have to take the risk.

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  15. If you love something, you do whatever it takes (within legal means, obviously). Sometimes love means going through a lot of pain and rejection, but perseverance will win you in the end. Great post! :)

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  16. Great post, very visual! Glad you were able to get back up again.

    We put our work out there because we believe it's awesome - we have to, or we wouldn't write. Rejection to me means 'not awesome enough yet'. Your horse was 'not fast enough yet', that's all :-)

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  17. This was the perfect analogy for me as I'm a rider too. I broke my arm as a kid riding, but I loved it and would never give it up. A couple years ago (I'm forty something now) I took a bad fall that really shook me up because it takes A LOT longer to heal up. I admit I cut back on my riding after that. In fact I'm just starting years later to get my nerve back. But it's the same thing as with writing: if its in your blood, you just keep trying. You work through the fear. Love that you shared a picture of your horse too! My kid horse was a tiny little thing, barely 14 hands, so I struggled with feeling like not one of the cool kids with a cool horse, too. But he has such an amazing personality I would never sell him (he's 31 now and perfect for my six year old twins to ride).

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