It always amazes me how the lessons I learn from riding horses so easily transfer to other areas of my life. It is particularly easy to find parallels between riding and writing, for both have a harsh way of humbling their participants.
Here is an example that is still painfully fresh in my memory. Last night, I went to the barn for my semi-weekly riding lesson and rode a beautiful, athletic mare I have never ridden before. I was excited because this horse is not suitable for beginner, or even intermediate, riders. The mere fact that my riding instructor thought that I was capable of riding her made me smile from ear to ear. Ive made it!, I thought to myself while happily trotting her around the ring. I started to notice the mare picking up speed. I tried to keep her speed her consistent, but she was so different from the docile horse that I am used to riding. When we started jumping, the problem became even more pronounced. SLOW HER DOWN! my instructor yelled over and over again. I tried everything I have learned over the years to slow down a horse: I circled, I sat back, I said whoa!, and I pulled the reins until I had blisters on my hands. The mare galloped faster. A small crowd of people gathered to watch the spectacle. Just when I was on the brink of tears, something clicked and I was able to calm her down. I was lucky I did not fall off, like the rider in the photo, but Ive definitely been there before too! Through the ordeal, I realized I still have plenty to learn. A part of me wanted to quit after last nights disaster. My confidence was bruised and my muscles have never been so sore, but Im going back in a few days to ride the mare again. It is the only way to become a better rider.
Ive had plenty of similar experiences with my writing. On numerous occasions, Ive spent months writing and revising a story until it is perfectonly to have it ripped to shreds by my critique group or rejected by a publisher. But this is the process (sometimes more painful than being thrown from a horse and landing on the ground with a mouthful of dirt) that leads to better writing.
Has the story you thought was perfect been rejected? Get back in the proverbial (or actual) saddle and dont give up. And always remember this piece of cowboy wisdom: Keep calm. Keep confident. Keep going. Not surprisingly, this applies to both riding and writing.
Now please excuse me while I take some Advil.