At long last, INTENT TO HOLD is “finished”. Still lots to do: edits, queries, cover art, contest submissions and so on. But I was able to scrape enough time together (okay, I passed on a paddle down the Petaluma River with my hubby) to ride my horse yesterday.
On St. Patrick’s Day this past March, my old boy turned 30. That’s not an extremely advanced age but it makes him quite the senior equine citizen around the ranch. Casey (his registered name if Patrick O’Zeem) is a big, old dark bay (dark brown) Thoroughbred gelding. He has the heart of a saint and an incredible work ethic. My hubby calls him “Chester” because he’s a horse nerd—he just keeps going and going. He loves to trot but his favorite is a good canter.
Yesterday, we were plodding around in an arena. I settled into the saddle, consciously thinking about my body position: open chest, open hip angle, heels down, and eyes up. Every stride, I modified something: finger pressure on the inside rein, calf pressure against the horse’s flank, or projecting my next move. As Casey collected (for a few strides, anyway) underneath himself and my center of gravity melded with his, I thought about all the stumbles it took to get here. Then it dawned on me how like writing riding is.
I’ve been riding for twenty-five year or so, but I still categorize myself as a beginning intermediate rider. Years ago, I mentioned to my husband that I had a riding lesson the next day. With a look of incredulity, he asked, “When will you know how to ride, then?” I’d had lessons regularly (in Dressage, the gymnastic discipline of equestrian sport) and planned to continue. But his question gave me pause: when will I know everything I need to know?
The answer is simple. I know how to ride now. But, I want to ride better. I want to push my limits to learn something new, to flow with the motion of the horse one more stride than I did last time, and to move him around with the slightest, most invisible motion. To get him to stretch and relax makes him a happy horse, therefore, I am a happy rider.
In the last two paragraphs, you could exchange the word ride for write. I read books, attend workshops and conferences, and have my work critiqued by colleagues regularly. Riding and writing both take skill and work. While I have a little skill at riding, I am spending much more time these days learning how to write better. It’s like a muscle—you have to work it to make it work right. If you don’t, it will just hang, flaccid and useless—not be available to you when you need it.
When I ride, I pay attention to many different things at the same time: my body position, external movement and sounds, the horse’s propulsion (gait, pace, etc.). If he’s not moving fast enough, he will stumble or lose balance. The same with a story: the pace has to be maintained to move the plot along. I struggle with books that get mired down in description, backstory or whatever. While many authors can put one work on hold and toil on another project, I cannot. I must write from beginning to end. This linear thinking has been both a curse and a blessing in my life. Thankfully, my thought patterns were a benefit in my career choice.
Basically, I’ve spent my life multi-tasking, in work and in play. It doesn’t look like there will be any big changes in my life.