Wednesday, September 29, 2010


In early 2009, my wife and I temporarily dropped out of the work world and spent four months in Hawaii. One of our goals while there was to get good at surfing.

We utterly failed at achieving that goal. But it was far from a total loss, because that experience gave us a powerful metaphor for writing.

Surfing, just like writing, seems deceivingly easy at first. We saw all of these people out there with huge smiles on their faces, getting up on the lazy waves and riding them in. Sure, plenty of people were out there falling down and flopping around, but from the shore, it really just didn't look all that hard to do.

Our overconfidence was utterly crushed out of us within a few days of trying it ourselves. Surfing is hard. Really hard. Paddling out is so exhausting that most beginners are completely spent before they even get out to the break. And if you do manage to get out there, it's painfully easy to misread or mis-time the waves, so you spend all your time fighting them rather than riding them.

Writing is exactly the same. You see these copycat chick-lit books with cutesy covers all over your local bookstore and you think to yourself "I can do that!"

Until you actually try.

That's when you get your first taste of humility, and you can start learning how to write for real.