(Hopefully some inspiration for other writers who feel they aren’t getting it exactly right)
It was recently pointed out to me that I don't write perfectly, the description was "a lack of polish", which set me to wondering if I needed to change my writing habits. As writers, we are always evolving and (hopefully) improving, but this seemed like I needed to take a hard look at my writing style. I spent a number of hours pondering the issue while packing boxes (getting ready to move house) one weekend. In the middle of packing up my formal office clothes (and remembering how much I hate wearing them) it came to me that my writing is very much like the other great passion in my life; horse-riding. I realised there is nothing wrong with the way I write. I don’t write badly, I just write differently to the way someone else might. Perhaps I can explain it like this;
I’ve ridden horses my whole life, since before I could run, in fact. But if you put me on a horse in a dressage ring, in front of equitation judges, I would fail miserably. You see I’ve only ever had one horse-riding lesson in my life, and it was the single-most boring 45 minutes I’ve ever spent on a horse. And yet I’ve ridden hundreds of horses; everything from horses that would scare the jodhpurs off most riders, to a 39 year old horse called Grandpa. I grew up riding bareback and only started riding with a saddle regularly once I got my first thoroughbred, a horse very few other people ever rode willingly. So, I don’t ride perfectly. I ride instinctively. I don’t enjoy controlling every movement, every thought, every step a horse takes. I ride for the enjoyment of the bond between horse and rider. The give and take. The unpredictability. So, while some riders spend their riding time teaching a horse exactly how to react to every command, I’m far more likely to be found on a scruffy, half-trained pony, hunched over its shoulders, galloping up a hill, dodging over-hanging tree branches and shrieking with laughter as I get hit in the face by dew-sodden leaves. And when we get to the top of the hill I’ll be gently fighting the pony to keep it from descending the hill at the same pace. It’ll dance from foot to foot and toss its head, but eventually it’ll calm and we’ll ride down at a more sedate pace, stopping for a quick mouthful of grass or flowers on the way. And an equitation judge will frown and shake their head, proclaiming I don’t ride properly; pointing out that I don’t keep my toes in, my heels down, or use my legs correctly. But there will also be those who watch me ride the pony and smile with pleasure. They will feel the exhilaration I’ve felt, see the connection between the horse and rider and shake their heads in amazement and wonder.
And, while I respect that some readers (and writers) only consider ‘dressage riders’ to be good authors, I will always be the girl wandering down into a field with nothing but a piece of rope to catch a horse. The one using a rock or anthill as a mounting block to scramble bareback onto a half ton of living flesh and muscle. The one who drops the reins and spreads her arms to the sky as the horse breaks into a canter of its own accord. The one who revels in the perfection of imperfection. The one who rides for the sheer, unadulterated joy of riding.
So, what I've realised is that it’s not always about the perfect sentence, the perfect hero or the perfect adjective, but that sometimes it’s all about the thrill of the ride, and how you feel when you get to the end of it. If you just want to get back on a do it again, it was a great ride!