What does the sport of rowing have to do with writing? I asked myself this question after returning from my son’s collegiate regatta on the East Coast, and I realized they share common practices and philosophies. Both activities require dedication, long hours of practice, and attention to form. Sound familiar?
Dedication: Rowing is a sport you have to want to do. You have to give it your all every time you enter the boat. It is often painful and difficult because of the repetitious nature of pulling the oar smoothly yet consistently through the water . . . every . . . single . . . time. Just like writing, you must want to put the words on paper, to tell the story you have inside of you. Writers have to commit to writing and dedicate themselves to their poetry or prose.
Practice: Rowers call it “putting in the hours on the water,” and in racing season that may mean twice a day, early in the morning or after a long day of school or work, in all kinds of weather conditions. Writers also have to commit to carving out time every day to spend writing, to practice getting the words on the page smoothly and coherently. Just like rowers, who may have a bad day with poor split times and lackluster stroke rates, writers too can feel the pressure of the empty page and not being able to make the words flow. Writers also find that sometimes they just don’t like what they’ve written. It all takes practice.
Form: Doing the same activity over and over again lends itself to focusing on good form. Rowers must concentrate on knowing when to push with their legs and pull the oars with their arms. They achieve this fluid motion with practice. Having good form means the boat will glide through the water with less effort. Kind of like writing, when you dedicate yourself to telling the story, and you practice writing every day, you begin to feel the form of your story take shape.
To be truly successful in rowing is to “make the boat sing,” to pull together in unison with others so that everyone works as one and the effort becomes a shared experience, resulting in joy that everyone shares. As readers, we know when writers have achieved this pinnacle moment because we stop, pause, and re-read a sentence or a passage that is so perfect, so effortless . . . so joyful that we feel at one with the author. Let’s get out there and write.
[Editor’s note: Ian Luetzow’s team from Drexel University won their race at the Dad Vail Regatta by less than 1/100th of a second, demonstrating that dedication, practice, form, and passion do pay off!]