When I was in eighth grade, my mother decided it would be a great idea to take me horse back riding. You know, fun mother-daughter type bonding.... we found out much later that we bond better over coffee and occasionally booze, but that’s another story.
Now, of course, my mother thought this would be fun, with a capitol “F”. I could think of another word with that letter...
See, here’s the difference, or one of them. My mom grew up in Michigan. She spent weekends at their cottage on a lake and summers at her grandparents’ farm, where she sicked a grouchy billy goat on her sister and rode the field horses bareback for amusement. She spent her childhood picking blackberries and all sorts of nature-like crap. No offense to the nature lovers, I’m just not one of you.
See, I, on the other hand, grew up in Cicero. I never rode a horse growing up... I never even saw a horse unless you count the stuffed pony they put me on to take one of those stupid cowboy pictures when I was three. We didn’t have horses or goats and the only lamb I ever saw was the one we served on Easter. I got a pair of ice skates one year for Christmas and laced the suckers up and tried ice skating on the pool in the backyard.... it was their own fault, I’d never been to an ice rink in my life and the stuff in the alley wasn’t nearly smooth enough to skate on. None of the kids in my neighborhood rode horses. We sledded off garage roofs, the really insane tried riding bikes off of them... and then they rode in ambulances... but no horses.
Does this lead up tell you how good my first time riding went?
My mom found this place to ride horses, but it was pretty apparent when we got there that this wasn’t just a nice simple ride, it was a riding lesson. To borrow from Erica’s Demon Baby, craptastic!
I don’t remember much about the lesson as a whole. There were a good many other riders, most of whom owned their horses and were (gee, ya think?) far more skilled than I. I remember the girl on the horse in front of mine, because she had full riding gear, the horse was her own, and she was more than a little on the snotty side. I, on the other hand, was wearing jeans, converse and a CYO jacket (Catholic Youth Organization – gee, could I have advertised my lack of wasp-y-ness any better?)
Oh yeah, and I remember that girl’s horse kicking my horse... and flying... oh, and landing...ya, boy, I remember landing.
Here’s the funny thing, okay, the flying and landing bit was probably funny too. The instructor’s panicked voice was only a dim hum, somewhere in the background of my head. By the time she’d finished saying something about coming back to the office to sit out the lesson and get checked out, I was already back on the horse. I don’t even know how the hell I got on the horse, because I was short enough that I needed to use a little stool to get on the first time.
So why the hell did I do that? I’d like to say it was to show the smug girl (who by the way, didn’t look so smug after that... in retrospect, she was probably horrified that her horse kicked mine). But that’s not why. I remember why – I wasn’t friggin’ finished.
I have to tell you, the horse listened better to me, too – though maybe he just felt bad for me, because I was so clearly out of my depth.
I’ve been horseback riding a number of times since then – my favorite was the time we went in Sedona... though someone should have told me that horses like to roll on their backs after getting wet, you know, before we rode through a river... Still, the view was worth a very bruised leg.
Obviously, the moral of the story is that I have bad luck around horses... but it’s not.
In writing, you hear a lot about perseverance. We talk about how the writers who make it to publication are the ones who won’t give up, keep knocking on doors and improving. That’s all true. You hear about the random authors who get a deal on their first query, but mostly it’s the ones plugging away, with two or three books under the bed and many years at it. Two or three out of print when they find a following... it’s the long haul writers who make it where they’re going... just like anything else in life – determination and stick-to-it-iveness.
Lately, I’ve been hitting that wall – you guys know the one, most of you have hit it at one time or another. Nothing’s popping. I can see improvements, don’t get me wrong, but.... eh... improvements aren’t the same as successes. And I wondered, for about a second, why I’m still going.
Because I’m not flippin’ finished yet.
I don’t think I know who I’d be without it.
How about you guys? Who would you be if you weren’t a writer? What’s your second favorite dream? How’d you get over the wall?