Golf and writing are actually two very similar pursuits. Don’t believe me? Stop scoffing and laughing into your hands. I’ll explain.
Here’s my golf bag. Ain’t it pretty?
I have 11 clubs, not quite a full set legally allowed under PGA and LPGA rules. Legally you can carry 14 clubs in your bag at any given time on a course during the round of play. The head covers are just to keep the woods, hybrids, and my putter looking nice. My soft-spiked shoes, glove, balls, tees, and a towel for cleaning the club heads are there as well.
Golf for the most part is a solitary pursuit. Sure it’s more entertaining to go play nine holes in a foursome, but the majority of your golfing life will be spent on the driving range. Alone, you and the ball that defies you to make it move (to paraphrase from Golf for Dummies) just sitting there on the grass at your feet. There are the goal markers, the poles which tell you how far you’ve hit the ball, should you knock it that far. The course I play at has a first marker at 102 yards. It’s a good goal to aim at as a beginning (and I do mean beginning) golfer.
Each club serves a different purpose. (My apologies to those who golf. I don’t want to lose anyone by getting caught up in jargon.)
The 1 wood is your driver. It’s what you will usually tee up with, but that depends on the course. If it’s a par 3 course you’re more likely to only need your fairway woods (the 3 and 5 woods or metals). These are the clubs with the big heads that make a very satisfying hollow thwack when you hit the ball right. The driver and the woods are for distance. Your goal when you swing these is to get the ball in the way of the club face at just the right moment so that it goes the farthest distance it can possibly go.
The 5 and 6 hybrid clubs are for an entirely different purpose. They’re designed with the best features of your woods and irons. This gives you distance with a certain dose of accuracy.
Then there are your irons. My set contains a 7, 8, and 9 iron. These are your accuracy clubs. You want to use these when you’re within sight of the green; when you can see that flag stick and know the hole is in reach.
I also have a pitching wedge, a sand wedge, and a putter. These are your short game clubs. Short game is just the part of the hole (which should be the majority of the hole) where you’re trying to move the ball less than 75 yards (an arbitrary, made-up number I am throwing in). Well, the sand wedge is really for getting out of the bunker. This is when you’re on the green and you see that cup sitting there in the ground, taunting you.
Your ball marker is for marking the position of the ball on the green so you can pick the ball up, clean it, or keep it out of the putting line of your playing companions. It’s a placeholder. But it’s very important to the game as the green is the only place on the course you’re allowed to pick up your ball.
Shoes are important for keeping traction while not destroying the fairways and greens. Soft-spiked shoes are especially useful for this.
The towel is important, particularly on wet days. Grass and mud interfere with proper interaction between club head and ball.
The tee is the starting point. It helps you position the ball right for a good launching point.
The ball is the point of the entire game so a golf bag would be useless without a plethora of balls. (Especially considering you’re more likely to lose a ball than play through an entire round of golf on the same ball.)
How does this relate to writing?
Well, writing is solitary. Especially in the early stages when you’re not a published author. When you’re working towards that debut novel, or biography, or memoir, etc.
Here are the tools that these beginning writers need:
1 wood: It’s your story that is screaming at you to be told. It’s what makes you write. It’s your muse.
3 and 5 wood: These are the outlines. The plot that runs through your head. You can see the far distance because you’re knocking it that way.
5 and 6 hybrids: Critique groups and beta readers. Your crit group is there for the accuracy. They help you to hone your craft, improve your prose, and generally help you make your work the best it possibly can be. Beta readers comprise the distance component of the hybrid because while they should be helping catch gross oversights in continuity and such things, they’re also to give you encouragement and keep you going through the revisions. They’re the ones who can see the spark and will help you see it too. That way you keep writing through all the constructive criticism and the harsh realities of publishing.
7-9 irons: Research, world-building, and careful crafting of characters on multiple levels. In essence, the mechanics of the craft.
Pitching wedge: Drafts. The first time I ever learned to swing a golf club, we started on pitch shots. It’s really half the swing of the full that you’d normally do. It’s a warm-up, but it’s also a good training tool. Drafts are essentially the same thing. Through pitch shots you develop muscle memory. Through drafting you develop muscle memory. Through both you improve your abilities.
Sand wedge: Butt in chair. The only way to get out of a tight spot is to sit and write. You’ll eventually find your way out of it. Then you can go back and use that pitching wedge to get yourself back on track.
Putter: I find myself writing little bits of future chapters, the end of the book, etc. just as a motivator to keep going. These little tidbits are the flag stick on the green and you use your putter to get you that short distance ahead of yourself. You don’t have to go very far so you can easily read (and mis-read) the green. Your story may break further to the left or right than you anticipated, but you’re at least aiming for the intermediary goal in sight.
Glove: The writing pen. Or your keyboard, depending on how you go about writing. It’s essential once you start using it and helps to keep the process going smoothly on your hands. And in general.
Tees: The initial idea that sparks the solo journey of writing.
Shoes: Your support group, whomever it may be. (Or is that whoever?) It can be your family, if they’re the ones who encourage you most on your crazy path in life. You decide. But it’s an essential part of this writing life. Just as a good pair of shoes is essential for keeping your balance on the golf course.
Ball marker: Your progress. Whether it’s a status bar you put on your blog, checking off one more thing on your outline, or writing “The End.” You put them down to mark where you are, but they’re non-intrusive so you can putt right over them and move on to the next item of business.
Towel: Editors and/or agents. They help you shine the manuscript beyond what you can do yourself. They are there to make sure there’s minimal interference between the manuscript sitting on the desk and getting put through the printer and shipped off in published form to booksellers everywhere.
Balls: Ah, the most important and critical tool of all. A writer’s golf ball equates to the words we use to tell our story. And that is the most crucial aspect of all.
So, still awake? OK. Good. Now you can quibble with me all you want over whether you agree or disagree with me on these points.