by Lisa Trovillion
I’ve recently had a few hands-on lessons in the old adage: Tell a gelding, but ask a mare. My mare, Dorrie, because of past physical problems, has been a study in patience and correctness. What do I mean by this? She is physically unable to go forward without being straight and needs a lot of help from the rider to find this straightness and maintain it. Here comes the patience part. It has been so hard for me to understand that I was a large part of her problem–why she would curl in a ball, flatten ears and not go forward? Why would she bow out in the opposite direction of our turn? Why does she drag and break to walk? What was happening? I’m not THAT bad a rider, am I? After all, my other horse goes along just fine. Learning the hard way—my personal specialty—I discovered that I was in fact shoving at her with my seat and nagging with my legs to go. Doesn’t work. I would creep forward, pinching with my thighs instead of sitting back with legs open. Makes her slow or stop. And I was not centered, but was instead dominating one side, which caused her to shift her weight and bow out. And all of this was so subtle that it took an instructor with a keen eye to detect it. That being said and acknowledging my riding faults, Dorrie is not a horse to meet you half way --or at all. You have to ask and you have to do it right. She’s like a giant, red “correctness” meter that clearly tells you when you're screwing up. And most of the time when I wasn't getting it right, it was because I was trying too hard. Shoving, clamping, forcing, willing something to happen doesn't necessarily make it so. Same with writing. I'm in the slumping hammock depths of a novel right now that I'm afraid is not living up to its great beginning and planning surprise ending. Every word I write, I'm evaluating as junk. So now I'm shoving at the page, nagging at the sentences, and endlessly fidgeting with the wording so that the story is fed up, shut down, and pinning its ears at me. It's time to let go. Take a breath. Open and relax and just write as if no one will ever read it and I am free to tear up the pages as soon as they are written. That's the only way I'll go forward into that sought after zone of "self-carriage" where the words come, the characters speak, the creativity flows and the rhythm of the story moves with perfect cadence so that I'm just along for the ride!