Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Landing Your Next Writing Goal

A great joy in my life, other than writing, has been flying. Not the big commercial jets, but small, single engine airplanes. One of the basic things every pilot learns sooner or later is that the more you try to control the airplane, the less control you have. When I first started flying, I recall coming in for landings. Here’s the internal dialogue:

“This is so cool, I’m flying a plane! Look at me. How easy. Just line up with the runway. Wait, drifting to the left. I’m high. Rudder, throttle, slip it, yes, yes, low, I’m low, to the right, wait, okay, leftrudderrightrudderupupnodownuprightupleftdown. Almost there. Jeeze the ground’s coming up fast. Don’t hit the ground. Hold it, hold it, throttle, no too much, ease off, leftright, down. Yes!  I’m on the ground! Yes!”

The final approach at Stinson Airport in San Antonio, TX

After one of those white knuckle landings, my instructor had me continue what’s called a touch and go, in which you land, then reconfigure the plane and take off again. This time around she coached me to relax. In fact, she wanted me to hold the yoke (it moves the ailerons and elevator--I won’t get into here) between my thumb and forefinger of one hand. At first I thought I had jolted her grey cells on the previous landing. Guide a plane weighing several thousand pounds at 80 mph onto hard asphalt with my thumb and forefinger?  But I followed her instruction, trusting when we went out of control she’d be there to save us. 

Given that I’m writing this blog, you know I managed to survive. As odd as it seems, letting go of my white knuckle grasp for control allowed me to fly with the aircraft in a partnership. The plane was not some beast to be tamed. Why, the thing wanted to fly!

So what does holding a yoke with your thumb and finger have to do with writing? From the critique groups I participate in, to writers I know, to my own writing, I think we all have those moments when inspiration just doesn’t seem to be in the room. We struggle  with a scene, fighting for each word, the blank part of the page haunting us. Or our well thought out plot, on second read, just doesn’t seem to work. One way to approach the dilemma is to put the head down and write those 2000 words or else! 

I have nothing against goals, in fact, goals can be very helpful in keeping us on track and moving forward.  However, how a writer approaches a goal does make a difference.  To take my flying analogy, if I try to over control my writing, essentially forcing the words on a page, like I forced the plane into a landing, I may not get the results I want. Yes, I’m on the ground, but it wasn’t very pretty. 

As odd as it seems, letting go of a white knuckle grasp for control allows an author to write with the story in a partnership. The story is not some beast to be tamed. Why, the story wanted to be written!

Richard Hacker is the author of the Nick Sibelius crime series. 

CHAIN REACTION to be release by Champagne Books, March 2014

Both Available Now from Champagne Books at your favorite digital bookseller

Web & Blog:
Twitter: @Richard_Hacker


Big Mike said...

Agreed. I've done workshops on writing and one point I've made, just write the darn story. Don't over analysis, don't struggle for perfection, don't hone every word, just get the story down to the last word. NOW go back and polish to a fine shine. Works for me.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I've been a white knuckle writer and a white knuckle passenger, over Mt. Cook, 1978, downdrafts and updrafts, all.

The WK analogy is excellent. When we squeeze too hard all the good stuff slips through our fingers. Accuracy and creativity get lost in over focusing.