We all know THAT kid. You know him. The one that strikes out in softball. The one always picked last for basketball. The one who looks like a fish out of water trying to do a push up. I was never THAT kid. I did well at all the sports I tried. If I was not all-star quality at all of them, I was at least decent. So while I had sympathy for THAT kid, I had never been him. Until today. For Father’s Day, I got to go golfing. Since the birth of my twin daughters, I’ve played less and less golf each year as I just don’t have the time I used to have to play or practice. Yet my golf had settled into a level of play I was happy with.
I no longer shot a really low score, but I also never duffed the ball. I may not par as many holes as I used to, but I bogeyed more than I triple bogeyed. I could play and enjoy the day knowing most of the time things would be O.K.
Things changed when I stepped to the first tee this morning. I was playing with a friend I’ve known for decades, and two new guys. I stepped up to tee off first, feeling good and ready to put the ball in the fairway. I pulled the club back, kept my head still, brought the club down in what I felt was a nice arc and a smooth swing. Then the club passed over the ball. By several inches. I looked down, incredulous, the ball still on the tee. I hadn’t had a swing like that since my early learning days. I had completely whiffed.
My friend laughed, as he should. The two new guys tried hard not to do the same while I could only imagine what they thought of this yahoo. I played it off, raising my hand to shade my eyes, pretending like I was looking down the fairway at a ball soaring in flight, rather than one stuck on the tee. I took a step back, another practice swing, a deep breath, then stepped back to my ball. I swung again, trying to slow things down and relax and this time I struck the ball. Well, that’s being generous. The ball dribbled sideways off the tee box to the left, barely leaving the tee box.
I shook my head as my three playing companions told me to hit another one. I picked up my ball and put it back on my tee. Now I was starting to worry. I cleared my mind, brought the club back and swung yet again, hitting the ball about thirty feet, forward and to the left, and behind a shrub. No one is ever behind this shrub. Ever. I had become THAT kid. For the next ten holes, things didn’t improve. Towards the end, I did manage to hit a few decent shots, but not many.
This is how writing is like golf. If you don’t practice your craft, eventually the quality of your work will suffer. To be a good writer, you must try and write as often as you can, every day if you can manage it.
I am going golfing again next Saturday. Between now and then I will make several trips to the driving range to practice. When I was younger, I had great sympathy for THAT kid, but never thought I’d be him. I believe with enough effort this week on the practice tee, I’ll regain some of the game I have obviously lost. I will also make sure to write every day, so I won’t become THAT writer.