Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing Lessons from a Ski Bum

About 15 years ago, I ventured on a solo vacation to Aspen. While I was there, I signed up for lessons - little did I know that the advice my hippie Zen master ski instructor would share would continue to hang about at the back of my mind all these years later, a reassuring mantra.

He had a list of three Important Things to keep in mind while headed down the slope:

1) Gravity Works
2) Breathing Helps
3) You Hit What You Aim For

I've been in a lot of situations since there where these pithy words have centered me and I've been surprised by how much I lean on them when it comes to my writing life.

Gravity Works
In skiing, gravity is what gets you down the mountain, one way or another (hopefully upright and on both skis). In writing, for me, gravity is all about what keeps me grounded to my work. What's my purpose? The more aware I am of my purpose, the more apt I am to align my actions with my dreams. Without gravity, I'm an untethered balloon and any old breeze can blow me off course.

Breathing Helps
Kind a a "duh" point to make, right? Breathing helps with balance, refuels the brain, lowers stress. Important on the slopes, essential in a writing life. Through good news and bad, through a tough slog of revisions or the frothy adventure of a new story, breathing is the number one way to connect with your core self. Gravity may get you down the mountain, but breathing properly will shift the journey from something to white knuckle your way through, to an experience you can, well, write home about.

You Hit What You Aim For
Technically, I think my instructor said, "you hit what you look at, so don't look at trees or kids." Translating that into my writing life, I've taken this to mean that, once you get yourself in motion on the trail you want to break, you'll arrive at your destination sooner or later. So make sure it's really where you want to go. And don't give up before you get there.

Gravity works, breathing helps and you hit what you aim for.

What about you? Have any ski bums given you insights into the world lately? What are you aiming yourself toward?


  1. Awesome, Keely! I've only skied a few times, and I disregarded all of those wonderful suggestions. Although I didn't (almost doesn't count) hit a group of kids, I did look right at a snowbank, and I managed to hit that thing without even trying. Head in, feet with skis dangling. Not a pretty picture.
    But I think I can manage to put the suggestions to work for me with regards to writing. :-) Great post.

  2. Great advice, Keely! Love it. Yes, gravity does keep the momentum going and you've got to be aiming at something to hit it ... that's why it's always best to have a goal. Which, if I might add, you've had a pretty high goal set the past week--since the Candace Havens Fast Draft Workshop--and have been hitting your word count consistently. Yay, you!

    We all know breathing is essential to life, however, we forget to do it . . . or we just breathe shallowly. It's the deep inhalations that reduce stress. The filling the lungs and holding and then expelling all the old pent-up air that's been lingering at the very bottom of your lungs. Does the body good. Does the soul even better!

    Loved the post. Rock on ski bum wisdom!

  3. good thoughts, Keely.

    My husband often flips one of those around to make his point in teaching golf: you don't hit what you don't aim for. That really resonated with me. If I didn't set a goal and keep aiming for it, the good fairy of publishing would never find me...

    You're an inspiration!

  4. A fellow ski bum! :-)

    My husband always says, "Don't look at the trees. Look at the spaces between the trees." Same thing as your concept.

    The best thing I've learned skiing, and which applies to life, is to live in the moment. I look only where I'm skiing, not farther down the hill. If I look farther down the hill, I fall.

  5. Great post!

    I love that you've remembered his advice all these years later. I jotted it down in my notebook for future consideration.

    I might add one more rule to skiing - gravity is 10 times more powerful when the back of a nylon ski suit meets a steep, icy slope. ;0