Friday, 5 March 2010

Lessons from the Tennis Court, #2 THE BALL

I am in a ladies tennis group that meets weekly.
The women vary from friendly and gracious to cold and competitive. Some are
there for the exercise. Some are there to perfect their game. I am there to learn and get better and hopefully have some fun in the process.
But it's hard to learn and get better and have fun when I have The Competitive One staring across the net at me. I start 'hearing' her thoughts about me:
She doesn't belong in this group.
Why did she have to come today?
Look at her form! 
She can't even return the simplest shot.
This is a waste of my time.
Why did I have to get paired with her?
And on, ad nauseam.
Now, who knows if any of this is going through The Competitive One's mind.
Maybe she's thinking of the movie she saw last night. Or what to do about her delinquent son.
It doesn't really matter because it's going through MY mind, and it's screwing me up.
I am trying to play to please her, to have her think well of me, to be accepted by her
and the end result is playing worse than normal.
I am outside of myself and outside of the rhythm that is tennis.

When I find myself playing to please, I try to step back and focus only on THE BALL. I stop looking at the person. They do not exist. There is a ball machine in their place and I am merely returning the ball. There is no judgement. There is no acceptance or rejection. There is just the ball and me.
And then I hit. Not always well. But probably better than what I had been hitting.

As a writer, I sometimes find myself writing to please - please the market, please a critique buddy, please a hoped-for agent. And writing to please works about as well as playing tennis to please. The result stinks. When I write to please others, I am outside of myself and outside of the rhythm that is writing. MY writing.
And so I must focus on THE STORY, the story that is buried within. There is no Competitive One, staring across the net from me. There is no Instructor or Agent or Market. There is only THE STORY.
In keeping my eye on the story, I hope to someday serve up an ace.

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