If you’ve done much writing, you may have seen articles in writing magazines or online or such about what writers can learn from this, that or the other. They may take the form: “What Writers Can Learn From Plumbers,” or “What Writers Can Learn From The Backs Of Cereal Boxes.” You’ve probably seen them. I’ve read many of them and in most cases I’ve learned something. Sometimes only a very little something, but a tidbit of information nonetheless. Now I want to turn the tables and suggest that someone who’s not a writer (at least not that I know of) can learn from us writers. I have someone very specific in mind: Tiger Woods.
What can Tiger learn from writers? Simple: learn when to quit.
Now, I don’t mean that Tiger should quit and give up golf altogether, I’m not saying “quit” in that sense. But Tiger, in contrast to a lot of other professional golfers has been tinkering with his swing since he first took up a golf club, all those many years ago, and he still is. Sure, when you’re young, adjusting your swing is important. A pro golfer needs a swing that works well for him/her, and a little tinkering is appropriate. But after a while you’ve just got to go with what works and play golf. Enter tournaments and play the game.
There’s a similarity here with writing. I’ve been working on several science-fiction novels for several years now, and I’ve worked on the first one, especially, quite a lot. I’ve made changes both large and small over the years, all with a view toward making it better–easier to read, up-to-date, cutting out things that are unnecessary, and so forth. I tinker with it a lot. I’ve done this to short stories I’ve written, too. But there comes a time when tinkering and fooling around become self-defeating, and may even make the piece worse. Writing, the sage said, is never done, just abandoned. A writer can always find something to change about a story or novel, even after it’s been published. You just have to say “no,” and be done with it. Send it out and let the editor work with it. Let time be the judge of the piece. Go on to something else.
Similarly, Tiger can take a lesson here. Stop tinkering with your swing. Just tee up the damn ball and smash it down the fairway. Get into tournaments and play golf. Like writers who are told “write every day,” I suggest you play golf every day. You’ve had one hell of a career, get back into the game and play. You are the J.K. Rowling of golf, bursting on the scene in a display of golfing brilliance. Write your name again on the Tournament trophy.