How tennis balls can help your writing

‘Sometimes I bounce back. Sometimes it’s more of a dull thud.’

That’s what the heroine in a novel I recently submitted says, and if it strikes a chord with you, you’re not alone. As a writer, not so long ago one of the sounds I dreaded most was that dull thud through the letterbox heralding yet another rejection of my precious manuscript.

So how do you transform dull thuds into bouncing back?

That’s where the latest buzzword comes in. That oh-so-virtuous 20th-century ‘perseverance’ has given up, the environmentally-PC ‘sustainable’ is, sadly, dying out, and in the brutally tough and always uncertain world of today, ‘resilience’ is the word you will now hear again and again. (Haven’t come across it yet? Now you’ve read my random jossings, bet you will hear it all the time!)

In business, in the environment, and in people, resilience has become a part of the language and the key to evolution and survival, whether you are talking about a company that is struggling to stay afloat, a political leader crossing the floor more times than the road, or an ash tree suffering from disease.

For writers, the quality of resilience has always been vital, but in life and in writing, how do you keep bouncing back?

Let’s take a closer look at that bouncing ball. Let’s make it a tennis ball, since Wimbledon is almost on us. I’m going to argue that it needs three things in order to keep bouncing. (And here I will beg the many physicists amongst my readers to excuse this decidedly non-scientific analysis that follows.)

The first thing a good tennis ball needs is air inside it, but also air around it. [Another word that has always intrigued me is ‘inspiration’ – literally, the taking in of air. But that’s for another blog.] When I have a setback, I find I need some space to take in air, to let myself breathe before I start focusing on moving forward.

But then, without some force propelling it, the ball simply dribbles to a standstill, air or no air. So once I have taken a few breaths, physically and metaphorically, I need to get tough with myself and knock myself back into play. This is where resilience starts coming in. If it’s a writing rejection, I will go and sit in front of the computer and put my fingers on the keyboard. I know from years of experience, if I do this, sooner or later I will start typing again. And then I will start writing.

And finally, if that ball – and me – are going to make that winning shot, it needs to be aimed in the right direction. If shots are missing their target or are getting returned all too swiftly, I try to modify my aim or consider a different angle or change my forehand to a lob. I might lose the next point, but at least I am still playing.

Successful entrepreneurs know all about resilience. So do successful tennis players. And so do successful writers.

But my inbox has just pinged (are the dull thuds of rejection a thing of the past?) and I’ve got a response to my submission. In case rain is about to temporarily stop play, have you got any strategies you can share with me on resilience?

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This entry was posted in Ravings and Musings (after Montaigne), Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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