For the last eighteen months or so, I’ve started playing football again, specifically Futsal, an indoor version of what most people in Australia call soccer. I have an obsessive personality by nature and so the result has been a pretty thorough immersion in the game. I now play two days a week, in a mixed and men’s team, and loathe to miss a game for some other commitment. Like long-distance running, which I got into for a year or so before injuring my knee, I like the regularity of it, the almost automatic nature of it that I do whether I’m doing it well or not. This is not the same for my writing process.
Playing twice a week, and making that commitment to turn up to the court for each game comes with it, at least I think so, some sort of progress. I’m not a great player, but I’ve certainly improved over time. I think there’s some sort of analogy that can be applied to writing, it might be a bit awkward but it sometimes works.
I don’t score every week, it feels awesome when I do, but I don’t need to score every game to improve or enjoy the game. With writing, it seems like you have to ‘score’ each time, and you only do it when you’re certain you can score. Goals can sometimes come out of nowhere though, you find a break and snatch one in a split-second but I wouldn’t have scored unless I’d turned up to the game in the first place. How do I expect to score so often in writing if I don’t turn up to the page regularly?
Some people try morning pages, I sometimes try freewriting and I think I’ve blogged elsewhere about that, and every so often tell myself that this is what I need to do, and find some metaphor like football to convince myself of its effectiveness. Surely techniques for athletes like training when it’s not ‘game time,’ drills, team work and collective commitment can apply to poets too. We could be a big poetic team that works together to score goals. One big team scoring goals against the world.
Football’s commitment is partly dependent on being on a team. I’ve signed up for the league. You can only forfeit one game a season (every twelve or so weeks) and so we must turn up. Writing is mostly only responsible to yourself, unless you’ve got deadlines.
One idea I have, and I would love for MSW to be a forum for ideas, is that writing groups can bring multiple people to the page. It makes a commitment to turn up each week. It’s also helpful for helping each other. A lot of writing for open mics and such means you can feel like you can read the thing you wrote that day, and I think editing and polishing pieces could be beneficial to not just myself.
As a team, you offer each other tips, and polish each others game, where to pass, where the other player is running to, how to avoid losing the ball. You improve as a team. You regularly turn up and sometimes you score some fantastic goals. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but overall, you hope to improve.
Initiatives like The Dirty Thirty and NaNoWriMo make writing a team challenge in regularity. I think I’d like to start a regular writing group, for sitting down as a group and writing, workshopping and editing, rehearsing performance and improving as a team. It’s not a new idea. Writing groups happen all the time. I know of a couple of poets who work together as a group. In fact, there could be multiple ‘teams,’ not competing against each other per se but groups all over. Poets who have affinities with each other in style or content or the gigs they go to, or just because they’re friends could regularly meet up to produce poetry.