Two things happened last weekend. First, I was in the middle of a pretty substantial revision. Second, I was on my family’s annual ski trip (and by family I mean parents, siblings, spouses and kids O.O) I could tell you how revising is like spending time with the extended family, but I’d rather talk to you about skiing.
You see, I didn’t learn to ski until I was an adult. Not sure why, but it never happened when I was in school, so I hit the slopes for the first time when I came home from college to visit friends. The fact that two of those friends proceeded to rate every fall I took (and believe me, I took some magnificent tumbles) will tell you a little bit about what skiing was like for me at first. It took quite a while before things improved at all. You know those little kids who snowplow all the way down a ski hill? Yeah. They were better than me.
Over time (and four years in Colorado) I got better. Not great by any stretch (black diamonds still scare the crap out of me and if I end up skiing in the terrain park, I promise it was by accident), but I can hold my own.
Then two years ago, my ski boots died a tragic death (I’d say untimely, but they were the ones I’d owned since my second-ever time skiing.) The bottom bits of plastic (that hold them in the skis) literally crumbled. They were done. Kaput. Finis. The hunt for new boots was not a fun one.
You see, my family has very sturdy legs and generally very short legs. That means our calves are bulky (this was true even when I was thinner.) We need rear-entry boots. When I went shopping, I was told everyone had stopped making them. So I found what I thought were comfortable boots. We could close them securely and they didn’t hurt too much.
Until I wore them skiing last year. They hurt so bad that I was not only bruised, I actually broke into tears skiing from the pain. Fast-forward a year, and I stupidly hoped we’d just put them on wrong (plastic bits under when they should have been over…that sort of thing). Not so much. However, I made it through the first day with no tears and only some bruising. (Because I’m a tough bitch and tough bitches can take that much pain.)
Then we went out again the next day, and the boots were pressing on my swollen and bruised bits. You know those assholes who see a person with a bruise and poke at it to see if it hurts? My ski boots are those assholes. But I’m a tough bitch, so I was skiing anyway.
Went down the first hill and I had a little less control than I liked, but I figured I just needed to warm up. The plan was to find my sister and her husband so the boys could go do their thing and she and I would hang. So hubs and I took the little side path to a different lift.
I hate this path. HATE it. But I skied it with no problems the day before, so I’m all “I got this shit covered.” Until I didn’t.
You’re probably reading this (if you held on so far) wondering what the hell any of this has to do with writing. So I should clue you in. Revisions (no matter how necessary) are painful (like bad ski boots). It doesn’t matter how shiny those boots were when you first bought them or how much you think you can handle, the moment comes when you get cocky and think “I got this shit”… only you don’t. You know what happens then?
Your ski/story hits a rough patch and your skis cross… and you get up close and personal with the side of the mountain. Yes, boys and girls, I skied off the edge of the trail. And I recently did that with revisions too.
What they have in common is the pain that you’re trying to work through and the panic when you hit that moment where everything has gone to hell and you don’t know if you can fix it. At that moment, the best thing you can hope for is a quick stop and a soft landing. (Skiing I was lucky enough to have both, otherwise the tree and I would have become good friends.)
And just like with skiing, the best thing to do when that happens with revisions is to haul your ass back up the mountain, look at the story that tried to do you in and flip it the proverbial bird. You know why? Because even if it hurts so bad it makes you cry and leaves you beaten and bruised in the end…you got that shit.
So when revision time rolls around, strap on your boots, pack your attitude—and for all that is good and holy wear a damn helmet!—point yourself down the mountain and go. Because nothing worth doing comes without a little work and hurt. And the only difference between skiers/writers and non-skiers/writers is the willingness to get back up and do it all over again despite the pain.
You got this shit.