In golf, as in much of just general, everyday, running-around life, rhythm is important. Rhythm is critical. Rhythm, to paraphrase an old Steve Martin gag, is.
I was on the driving range last week, getting ready for my annual golf outing with my brothers, and I was struggling with my swing. Not exactly breaking news.
Take it back slow, I tell myself all the time. Easy, I say. Eaaaaaaasy. (I literally say this to myself. All the time. Out loud. I’ve had people next to me on the range pick up their bucket of balls and move to another bay.)
On a few occasions, a very few occasions, I actually listen to myself. I take the club back slowly … deliberately … a careful, cautious sweep of the line behind the ball … I turn my shoulders … my weight seems balanced. I seem solid, a golf-ball hitting machine. I reach the limit of my backswing, completely under control. I’m coiled, ready to release my swing. I release the tension …
And I come down on the ball with the swiftness of an executioner’s axe, with the speed of a Benihana samurai. I swing at the damn ball like I’m afraid it’s gonna grow little legs and run away if I don’t smack that little bugger as hard as I can and as fast as I can. Right now. Right freaking now.
I swing ferociously. Mercilessly. What was under control is now wildly free, running around like Brodie with the zoomies. Everything breaks down. My legs start cavorting down the fairway by themselves. My hands are somewhere in the nearest water hazard. The rest of my body contorts like some sideshow freak. I come unmoored from my spikes, my club ends up around my waist somehow, a divot hits me in the eye, the ball flies off (who knows where?) and I feel unbearably dorkish and un-athletic.
It’s a familiar feeling by now. But, still.
It’s hard to say why this happens. And happens. I’m not a regular golfer. But I’ve swung enough in my life to know that I stand no chance if I don’t have some semblance of rhythm in my swing. I mean, back and through, back and through. Nice and easy. Let the club do the work.
How hard can that be?
It’s all rhythm. Hitters in baseball, when they’re in the on-deck circle, watch pitchers to get in a groove. They’ll tap their toe or lift their leg as the pitcher begins his routine. Tennis players, in a rally, are like clockwork. They’ll hit backspin or a heavy topspin with the purpose of trying to throw off their opponent’s timing.
Basketball players step into three-pointers, pass to teammates in stride, work on perfect footwork so they can reach the rim or block a shot at the top of their leap.
There’s a rhythm in all our days, really, from getting up to going to bed, through our workday, through our workweeks and through our weekends. When that’s thrown off — a bad night of sleep, a project that’s overdue, a delay at the airport — we all end up shanking a proverbial golf ball into the proverbial woods once in a while.
Writing — here’s the downswing on this rant — is like that, too. You have to write, regularly, to feel comfortable with what you’re saying and how you’re trying to say it. You have to write regularly to keep the fundamentals sharp. Like, you know. Comma, placement. And; other punctuation!
You can’t just take the club back nice and easy and stop there. That’s only half the job. You have to follow through, too. That’s the important part.
So, yes, this is the fifth or sixth or 19th time I’ve promised to be better, more regular, on the blog.
I’ll keep trying. I’m gonna follow through. Nice and easy.
Please pardon me if I mumble to myself.
Part of the problem I’ve had over the past few weeks — this is the excuse part of the “I’m back” post — is my new consulting gig. It’s going well. I like the people I work with. It has its challenges, which is a good thing. I’m getting some decent work done.
But like most j-o-b-s, it takes time. And like many j-o-b-s, to do it well takes even more time.
Like most occupations, there’s a kind of steady pace to this gig. A rhythm, if you will. In this one, generally, that means getting up fairly early (not quite as early as my old j-o-b) and sitting in front of my laptop and staring at the screen — staring, staring, staring — while four or five of my fingers do their jobs. (I’m not counting my thumbs. They do a fair share of work.)
Writing emails. Editing copy. Exchanging messages in Slack. Reading. Scanning the site. Scanning the competitors’ sites. Catching up on the sad, sad state of politics in America.
(OK, that’s not part of what I do. Can’t help myself. Like I can’t help mentioning the sad, sad state of politics.)
After 8 or 9 or 10 hours of staring at a screen for work — Mary Jo does the same thing — I find it a little difficult to switch gears, get personal on the blog and begin writing. Plus, I’m pretty exhausted. My thumbs are plumb worn out.
So I spend many of my nights futzing around on the laptop some more, reading news sites, shopping for golf balls, putting down a few ideas, calling up the latest golf instructional video and half-watching games on TV. Before you know it, I’ve zoned out three or four hours and it’s time to get to bed and get ready do it all over again.
This is, I realize, many people’s lives. It was mine, too, for years. But after two years of the relative freedom of freelancing, it’s been an adjustment.
It’s funny. I don’t think I work any harder. I probably don’t stare at the screen any more. But when you’re freelancing, you can manipulate the hours a little better. You don’t have to be in front of the laptop at, say, 6:30 or 7 a.m. all the time, You can take a break for lunch in the middle of the day if you feel you can swing it, and if you can get past imagining that everyone else is thinking that you’re goofing off.
If you’re the boss, you can work until, say, 11 p.m., if that’s what it takes. I used to do that all the time. That’s one of the several differences between working for someone and working for yourself, at least in the j-o-b I do.
That, of course, and the pay. And the paid vacation. And the nifty office. And the health care benefits.
Oh, god. Don’t get me started on health care.
The consulting contract runs out in a couple weeks, right after the Final Four in Phoenix. After that, I’ll dive back into freelance writing, with all the uncertainty that holds. I hope — I’m expecting — that will help me slide back into a writing groove. I still have a few hundred blog posts in me, I think. Not to mention a Great American Novel. Or three.
All I need is to get down, that punctuation thing. And get back. My.
You know. Rhythm.