Over the recent holiday weekend, Neil took an extra day off and we went out early to play a full round of golf. Normally we play nine holes for our league or for our weekend outings; we don’t have the time for a full eighteen holes and until recently I haven’t been good enough for it, either.
But this time I did fine — scored 75 for the front 9 and 74 for the back 9, comparable to my recent league scores. I had some pretty bad holes and some excellent ones. It was hot, but that didn’t stop me.
I noticed several differences between playing 9 holes and playing 18. The biggest one was that after 6 holes, I usually start to count down to the end. After 6 holes in this round, I was barely started.
For 9 holes, I usually have either a good day or a bad day. Sometimes I start out poorly and manage to get my act together, but usually it’s all of a piece. Eighteen holes, on the other hand, gave me plenty of time to start poorly, then go up for several holes, and down for several more, and back up at the end.
At about 14 holes, it didn’t feel like we were getting close to the end. It felt like we were going to be playing golf for the rest of eternity. I just wanted to give up and go home. But I didn’t, and the last few holes were some of my best of the round.
And it struck me as we were heading back to the car that there were a lot of similarities between 9 and 18 holes and between writing a short story and writing a novel.
You can just push through a short story. You can’t do that with a novel. It’s too big to hold onto and you have to pace yourself.
The novel will have its ups and downs. There will be times your words are flying straight and true like a great drive, and times when you’re taking five shots to get out of a sand trap.
There will be times when you can’t see the end and you just want to quit.
But if you keep going, you will finish.
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