Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bow and Arrow - Pen and Paper

Fwomp......fwomp...fwomp fwomp....fwompfwompfwomp..........fwomp.


Yesssss!’ is quietly hissed.

A silent fist-pump slashes the air.


That’s the sound of the sport of archery. Or more specifically, the sound of arrows hitting a target fixed on a butt.

But not just any old butt. Unless, however, one is a tad moody that day, one might have a specific ‘butt’ in mind. Morally wrong, yes, but some days oh so tempting.


The butt in question is big wooden stand with a target fixed in the center, placed anywhere from 20 – 60 meters from the archer.

The archer stands at the shooting line, his body facing sideways. His arm guard is in place; a snapping bowstring on the forearm does NOT tickle. His sight is adjusted and his hat is turned backwards. The ‘nock’ of the arrow is fixed on the string and the ‘shaft’ of the arrow is settled on the arrow-rest of the bow. With fingers holding the arrow in place, the bow is raised and pointed at the target. The string is drawn back and the archer closes one eye. The string and archers’ arm quiver at fighting the sometimes 30 pounds of resistance, but he or she can’t let go yet.

The archer takes a deep breath and pulls the string-yielding-arrow up to his or her cheek. With the sight lining up the tip of the arrow just so, take aim, take aim....then....at just the right moment.......release.



But not all the time.

There are ‘good’ days and ‘bad.’ Sometimes the target is missed completely, sometimes the arrow gets ‘oh so close.’ Hitting the black outer ring is good, hitting the second inner blue ring is better, hitting the third inner red ring is that much closer, and getting the yellow bull’s eye? THE BEST.

And if none of those hit, well, follow directions and repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

For those not into team sports, archery is the way to go. You compete with yourself, trying to out-do your last shot; perfecting your skill to better your aim. A bull’s eye is always the goal. And if a practice session involves working on getting one’s arrows on the red inner circle and not always on the black, that’s fine too. It’s a goal you set for yourself.

Sure, if you wanted to, you could enter tournaments, and aim to be the next Olympian. Beating out other countries with your fine marksmanship can be a goal – there’s nothing wrong with that. Dream big, I say. But if fame, glory, and Olympic gold medals are not your thing – fine. In archery, you are your own competitor. And if at the end of a practice session you can leave the archery range knowing you beat your last score by a mile, and at the farthest shooting range you can muster, you know you won!

Yes, it’s hard not to watch the guy next to you with his state-of-the art bow, his arrows with pristine fletchings, and his near-perfect shots (1/2 a millimeter from dead center of a perfect bull’s eye – not bad). But every shot you make yourself, by yourself. Every arrow lifted, every sight adjusted; it’s about bettering yourself each and every time. You’re relying on your skill and experience.

Like archery, writing is solitary. You compete with yourself, bettering your craft with every word, sentence, paragraph and novel. It’s up to you and only you. If aiming for publication, giving up is not an option. If every writer put down their pen or threw their laptop out the window with every rejection received, there would be no writers. If every archer threw down their bow with every missed shot, there would be no archers. Everyone has good days and bad. Every one either misses the target or sometimes gets a bull’s eye – a perfect sentence written, a publishing contract offered. Sometimes it’s hit-and-miss, but practice, perseverance and focusing on the target, or goal, pays.

Yes, in the publishing world, competition is fierce. But as the archer takes a deep breath, takes aim, focuses and blocks out everyone else, so can the writer. Keep writing, keep perfecting, keep taking aim – you WILL eventually hit the mark. Ignore everyone else.

With my one son having taken up this Robin Hood-like sport, and my husband a past archer himself, the sport is rampant in my house. I have yet to shoot an arrow, but in watching my son at the range as well as recent movies showcasing the sport, I am intrigued. Yes, it would be neat to be like the character Katniss Evergreen from ‘Hunger Games,’ with her trademark braid flung over her shoulder as she bravely takes the next shot in a game of life and death. And yes, it would be neat to be like wild-haired Merida from ‘Brave,’ her inner strength to defy age-old customs coupled with her awe-inspiring archery skills makes me wish I could be like her.

Although it’s never too late to take up a new hobby, I know I could never look as good as these youthful characters when shooting a bow and arrow - their hair is better than mine. I think I’ll stick to writing.

But as I sit at the archery range with binoculars and camera ready to capture my son’s ‘perfect’ shot, I realize, in some ways, I’m sort of like these highly skilled archers - sort of. I know it’s cliché, but with paper as my bow and my pen as my arrow, I keep practicing and aiming for my target - a bull's eye. I make writing goals for myself, and make plans of which editor/agent/publisher I want to next target with my work. Despite sometimes missing the mark, I keep drawing back the string, and taking aim......

Sometimes I hit, sometimes I miss. But then I take aim again, take a deep breath, and shoot.

And repeat.

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