What’s Wrestling Got to Do with Writing, Anyway? (Writing Question #2)

I’m glad you asked. The answer is, more than you might think.
I wrestled all four years when I was in high school in Huron, Ohio, and during my first year of undergraduate school, at Brown University. During that time, I learned that wrestling requires enormous dedication, self-discipline, and conditioning. Also, that stepping out onto the mat as a young adult, to face an opponent one-on-one, calls on all your reserves of courage and poise. And that in the long run, the experience goes a long way toward developing self-confidence. (I was a pretty shy kid, really—kind of geeky, afraid of girls, and not terribly good at sports in general. This sport represented a major area of growth for me.) Coached properly, wrestling also develops a sense of good sportsmanship, respect for the opponent, and the ability to win and lose with equal grace.

Writing, for anyone who hopes to do it professionally, requires if anything even greater dedication and self-discipline. My wrestling experience probably did more to prepare me for the long, tough haul of making it as a writer than any other single thing I did as a student, including taking writing courses. As an aspiring writer, I put in endless hours of work with zero promise of reward, only hope and determination. Like just about all new writers, I met setback after setback, and had to choose between quitting or plugging ahead. (This process is ongoing, by the way. It doesn’t just happen to aspiring writers. There are lots of professional writers out there, including me, who are engaged in an ongoing struggle to keep their careers alive and healthy.)

Courage and poise? Well, for a lot of people, putting a manuscript in an envelope and sending it off, unsolicited, to a publisher takes about as much courage as stepping out onto a mat. And you have to learn to lose with grace if you’re going to make it in the writing business. The poise and the self-confidence come with time. And come in mighty handy the first time you step up to a podium to speak to an audience as a “guest author.”

(Momentary digression: if you’re unfamiliar with the sport of wrestling and think I’m talking about anything even remotely related to the stuff they show on TV under the name “professional wrestling,” no. Don’t. No resemblance. Don’t even talk to me about it.)

A surprising number of wrestlers turn out to be good students, as well. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising; the same self-discipline comes into play. Some pretty well-known writers were also wrestlers. And also some less-well-known writers.*

Here’s a short SF story I wrote about wrestling, originally published in the anthology Warriors of Blood and Dream, edited by Roger Zelazny. It’s called Shapeshifter Finals.

Here are some books by wrestlers-turned-writer:

*It pains me to acknowledge it, but a well-known thug who is also our current Secretary of Defense was also a wrestler and coach. Oh well, no sport’s perfect.

Second Place at All-Girls Wrestling Tourney!

Got home late last night from a weekend in New Jersey, attending our first all-girls wrestling tournament, the USGWA New Jersey Girls Wrestling State Championships Open. Lexi placed second in her weight grouping, winning three matches (one with a pin and one in double overtime) and losing one. More importantly, she had a great time, and made some new wrestling friends from other states. One of the organizers commented on his past experience with girls’ tournaments, noting that the girls are much more likely than the boys to get together after competing and hug and make friends with each other.

Most of the girls we talked to were in the same position as Lexi–participating on boys’ wrestling teams, often as the only girl, and attending events like this after the season. A recent USA Today article on girls’ wrestling noted that the number of high school girls wrestling nationwide is currently about 4000, up from about 100 in 1990.

If you’re interested in all-girls wrestling, here’s the go-to group: the US Girls Wrestling Association, or USGWA.

And here are some pix from the tourney.




Wrestling in an Earlier Generation

You just never know what the mail (or email) is going to bring. As a result of my posting Lexi’s wrestling photos earlier on this blog, I recently heard from an old college teammate of mine. He sent along a photo of the Brown University freshman wrestlers from…well, a number of years ago. I studied the photo, and studied it, and finally recognized one of the guys. (Is that me?)

Yeah, I guess it is. (Neither of my daughters were able to pick me out of the picture, nor could my brother. My wife did, though.)

Here it is, from days long ago, at a university not so far away.

Return of the Wrestler

She did it again! Today in a quad meet, she won a match, lost a match (and won another by forfeit). This time she won with a pin, in the second period. And had she not done so, the Arlington wrestling team would not have won the meet against Milford as they did. (Of course, the same can be said of everyone who won their individual meets. But I’ll bet this one was a surprise to the opposition.)

Zounds!





Yow! You go, girl!

My daughter Lexi broke the gender gap yesterday evening by defeating her (male) opponent 13-9 in a hard-fought six-minute wrestling match, in a dual meet with Reading, Mass. She’s been part of the Arlington High School wrestling team for two years now, and it’s been a tough uphill battle, competing with boys who are both stronger and heavier (she’s underweight for her 112 pound class). This was her first varsity victory of the season, and her whole team had her (literally) up in arms afterward. She also helped turn the tide for the team, which had been trailing in the meet, but came back to win a decisive victory.

Her dad was more than a little excited, and very proud.

Throughout her wrestling experience, she’s received great support from her coaches and teammates, who from the beginning welcomed her to the mat as one of the team. (Last year, she was the lone girl on the team; this year, two more girls joined her.)

Here are some action pix!









Recovering from an intense weekend

Oy. I haven’t posted, or even really been online much, the last few days. We had major renovations to finish on our rental apartment (half of our two-family house), so that new tenants could get moved in. That kept us up until 6 a.m. Friday night, a night which also included one daughter competing in a high school wrestling meet an hour away, and then both daughters performing in plays shortly thereafter. We’re a little tired.

I’d like to say I’ll be back here with some regular posts starting right now, but I have a major editing deadline coming up in the consulting work I do (editing educational content for web-based teacher training—in this case, high school algebra), so I’ll be pretty buried in that for the coming week. After that…I hope to get back to work on the final chapters (first draft) of Sunborn. And maybe have some thoughts to post on writing. (Or at least the difficulty of doing it, when life is filled with other things, including the need to earn a living!)

More later.

Putting Out the Cat

This expression came to me from my Uncle John Sherrick, rest his soul, who, besides being one of the wisest and kindest men I ever knew, had a wonderfully droll sense of humor. I don’t know the origin of the story–I seem to remember that he was retelling it from another source–but here, more or less, is the story as he told it to me:

A farmer woke up sometime after 1 a.m. to the sound of the cat meowing at the door. He got out of bed quietly so as not to wake his wife, and went to open the back door for the cat. As he stood at the open door, he noticed that the sprinkler was still going out in the back yard, so he slipped on his shoes and went to turn to the sprinkler off. That took him near the shop, which reminded him that he’d left off painting a bit of carpentry before dinner and not gotten back to it. He was awake now, so he went into the shop and spent fifteen or twenty minutes finishing his painting job. As he was putting away the paint and brush, he noticed a bunch of tools piled near the lathe, which he’d been meaning to sharpen for months—but what with one thing and another, he’d never gotten around to it. Figuring he’d sharpen just one or two, he turned on the lathe and dug around for his safety glasses. Forty-five minutes later, he turned off the lathe and put away the stack of newly sharpened tools. That reminded him of the wagon and tractor that needed greasing, so he reached for his grease gun…

As the farmer crept back into bed somewhere around 4 a.m., his wife stirred and opened her eyes. “Where’ve you been?” she asked.

He sighed, pulled the covers up to his chin, and closed his eyes. “Putting out the cat.”

Maybe later I’ll post the updated-for-the-24th-Century version of the story that I wrote a few years ago in homage to this one.

Methane Lakes! Four-Pod Lives!

According to the Boston Globe, Titan researchers have concluded that there is methane rain on Titan, and probably are or have been methane lakes. What a wonderful science fictional world that really exists!

In honor of that, and sort of in honor of the 3 hours I spent shoveling snow after the blizzard today (one of the top 10 in Boston weather history, they say), I think I’ll post a little excerpt here of my one fictional venture onto Titan. This is from my novel The Infinity Link, published in 1984 by Bluejay Books, and also by the SF Book Club, and by Tor Books. This is from the prelude to Chapter 18. Meet Four-Pod:

The sound was starting again–the long, low moan that echoed in the back of the consciousness, that evoked memories of a methane glacier during a thaw, shivering and buckling and fragmenting. This was not the time of the thaw, however. And Four-Pod was nowhere near the glaciers.

What, then, was the source of this moan-that-was-like-a-song? It did not sound like the voices of Those-Who-Thought, but who else could make a sound ring inside the consciousness, with nothing to be heard on the outside except the wind and the rain?

Four-Pod could not delay for the truth to be revealed. His destiny lay at the edge of the Snow Plain, where the Philosophers awaited his riddle-offering from the hills. If the offering suited them, he would be made welcome there, and perhaps he could speak with them of this troubling thing. If not, he would be forced to flee, and he would have only the sleet and wind for counsel.

And, perhaps . . . the voice.

Perhaps it would travel with him across the plain, offering companionship and thoughts of warmth.

And perhaps he was wasting time thinking and listening when he should be on the move. He had many lengths yet to cross.

With a forward lurch, Four-Pod shuffled through the billowing snow. Once his claws found traction in the firm methane ice, beneath the snow, he settled into an efficient pattern of movement: grip . . . heave . . . grip . . . heave . . . grip. . . . Occasionally his nails slipped on the ice, and he sailed snout-first into a bank of snow. Each time, he picked himself up patiently, blew the snow out of all six nostrils, and continued as though nothing had happened.

The songs came and went from his thoughts. He shifted his focus to other senses: the fine grains of snow sliding across his silken hide, the rasp of his claws on the ice, the looming and sudden gusting away of shadow-like forms against the ochre sky. Thoughts of hunger tormented him; but he knew from the texture of the ice that he was at least a storm-day’s walk from edible slush. To distract himself from his hunger, he summoned memories and legends.

There were stories that told of times when the world was a sounder and clearer place–when snow lay hard upon the ice, and the sky on occasion grew deep and transparent, revealing miracles. Legends spoke of the round, banded body of Heaven–and of a many-layered arch that vaulted to Heaven and (some said) looped around it to enter Heaven’s back gate. Songs spoke of Heaven’s necklace, and there were those who said that it was in reality the same as the road to Heaven, that the image of a necklace was only an illusion. Others claimed the opposite, that the road was the illusion, that it circled round and round, toying endlessly with the weary, hopeful pilgrim.

It was a fine legend. But legends could ward off hunger for only so long. Four-Pod knew that he must soon find sustenance or starve. As the snow grew grittier and more bitter in his nostrils, he pushed harder, and clawed deeper.

When the song returned this time, it reached somehow deep into his heart and boosted his flagging spirit. He peered and sniffed, tossed his snout and brayed, and plunged forward. Was the song a legend come to life–a call from Heaven? He thought of the great arching road that existed somewhere above the shrouded sky, and he grew dizzy with fear and joy. Could this be a signal? The music of the Heaven Road?

Press on.

Much later the ice changed. He was desperately weak, step following on step. With groggy surprise he recognized the softening of the ice under his claws, a delicious wetness soaking the bottoms of his pods.

The slush pool opened before him, layered and rich. He dropped his snout and drank deeply, filling himself. Afterward he contracted his pods and settled into the snow. The music continued to dance in his thoughts, and lovingly intertwined with his dreams as at last, at long last, he slept.

(Copyright © 1984 Jeffrey A. Carver)

Opening Round

Welcome to “Pushing a Snake Up a Hill”!

Although I have maintained a web site for a good number of years, this is my first entry into the blogosphere. If you’ve come here from my web site, you already know that I write science fiction and may be familiar with my books. If you stumbled in here by another door, you probably know nothing about me. So please allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Jeff Carver, and I’ve been a working professional writer for not quite thirty years. In that time, I’ve written and had published 14 novels and a number of shorter pieces. Not a huge output by the standards of many of my contemporaries–but then, I’ve always been a slow writer. I like to think that some of my work is pretty good, despite the infrequency of publication. My most recent novel, Eternity’s End, came out a few years ago and was a finalist for the Nebula Award. I’ve been working ever since on the fourth book of a series called The Chaos Chronicles, and have been contending with difficulty in finding enough time to write (while I do other kinds of writing and editing to earn a living), as well as struggling with the book on its own terms. (It feels a little grandiose to say that I’ve had writer’s block, but is probably accurate nonetheless.)

I expect I’ll have more to say on all this in later logs.

The title for my blog comes from an expression my wife and I have been using for years–inspired by the difficulty of moving young children along toward completion of tasks (such as getting to bed!). Our kids are older now, in high school and middle school, but we still use the expression all the time. “Pushing snakes” has become shorthand for any Sisyphus-like chore. And there seem to be way too many of those in daily life!

In the coming days and weeks, I hope to note some of my thoughts on writing, on home-schooling kids, on home repair(!), on science and politics and religion, and whatever comes to mind. Let me know what you find of interest, and we’ll talk.

Jeff

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