I’ve been aerial training since 2011. I’ve been writing since I was sixteen. I have noticed parallels between the two, and I thought I’d list them here for the three other writers who are also aerialists. KIDDING.
There’s actually a lot of parallels between aerial training and any passion you’re pursuing when you’re not paying the bills at your day job.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Honestly, show me the profession or passion where it IS a sprint, not a marathon. Medical school takes forever. So does becoming a lawyer. It’s never fast as you want it to be. We all wanna be prodigies. Because if we discover that we’re seriously brilliant at something, then what? We don’t have to do it again? We live off the mountains of profits of the one masterstroke we did once in our lives? Life doesn’t work like that. Pursuing a dream is not a one and done thing.
If you’re serious about writing, it’s not that you write one script, sell it, and never write again. You are always writing.
And if you take a single aerial class and love it, you don’t take one class, and never go again. You keep at it. You go every week. Sometimes twice, if you can afford it. If you can really afford it, you sign up for unlimited monthly classes (that’s a dream of mine).
Your passion is ongoing, and you don’t even notice it because if it’s your passion, you love doing it. Whether it’s writing, aerial training, yoga or neurology.
Measure your progress
One of my favorite things to do when I’m at Disneyland or Walt Disney World is when I get to the front of the line. Before I get on the ride, I look behind me to see how far I’ve come (and to take pleasure in the fact that there are still people behind me and I wasn’t the end of the line).
Same thing when you hike to the top of Griffith Park – you have to look back on the trail and see how far you’ve come. It’s mind-blowing. I made it all the way up that hill. I made it all the way through thirty minutes of standing in line, and now I’m about to get on a roller coaster.
When I was a gymnast, I was marginally flexible. I never had my splits, but I did have back flexibility. I could do back handsprings like nobody’s business, all the way down the floor in the way that skinny twelve-year-old gymnasts can do.
Now as an adult, my back flexibility is marginally better than an eighty-year-old. Those back and shoulder muscles are brittle with age and years of day-job desk sitting. But my aerial teacher doesn’t give up on me so I don’t give up on myself. I stretch. Most every day. I’m the freak in the corner of the LA Fitness doing a backbend against the wall.
There are a lot of days where I don’t wanna stretch. I’m tired. I’m cranky. There’s a lot of snap, crackle and pops in my spine, knee and hip joints when I stand up. I need a motivator. So I started taking pictures every few months at my aerial studio, Womack & Bowman. I reasoned that if I couldn’t see any progress, than I could give up.
There’s an old saying in aerial circles, which is that “Progress is measured in millimeters.” So I did see progress in my backbends. In millimeters. But it’s enough to motivate me. It’s enough to keep going.
In my writing, I keep a log of how many scripts I’ve written in my life. The number is too numerous to mention in polite company, so I will say… more than ten. And I think it’s helpful to sometimes go back to those early scripts. Because they’re awful. Truly truly wretched. Like, how in the world did my college screenwriting professors even put up with my stanky-ass writing? One of my short scripts was setting Alice In Wonderland in a mental institution. Because I was SOOOOOOOOOO brilliant at twenty years old! Nobody’s ever thought of that one, right? Blargh.
But I kept at it. I didn’t give up. And my writing today is better than my writing ten scripts ago. And my writing ten scripts from today will be even better. That’s the cool thing about writing and aerial training. The more you keep at it. The more you practice and observe and read and learn, the better you get.
The little things are important
You can be working on the most basic silk trick in the world – climbing up the silk or a hip key – and it will ten thousand percent look better if you’re pointing your toes and keeping your legs straight. There is no reason in the world you cannot point your toes on a silk. That doesn’t require muscle strength. That doesn’t require flexibility. Everyone and their mother can point their toes (Upon retiring, my mother started adult ballet classes, so she can for sure point her toes). And you look so much better.
In writing, the most basic thing in the world is spelling. Because you’re a writer. Words are what you trade in. I would go off on writers in my writers group when I’d read their stuff and spot more than two misspelled words. One writer explained that he had written the script on his phone during his day job lunch hour and didn’t have time to spellcheck. YOU ALWAYS HAVE TIME TO SPELLCHECK. You’re a writer. Don’t misspell words. That’s akin to a doctor putting on the wrong-sized Band-Aid. It’s the basics, silly.
Be a professional. Pretend like you’re getting paid dream job money. Act like a professional before you’re getting paid, and then you won’t have to make any adjustments when you are getting paid.
Put your name and the date on the title page. Tick the box on the Final Draft export window that include the title page when exporting to pdf. Pay attention to the little things.
Know your limitations and keep working on them
There’s a particularly evil stretch in aerial class called the Moose Pose. It looks like this.
It looks like you’re praying to the wall. I used to hate the Moose Pose. But it’s supposed to open up your shoulders and back, and I need flexibility in both those areas. So I did the stretch in class. My teacher said I could do the stretch at the gym, at home, in the bathroom at work. So I kept at it. Until I eventually stopped hating it. Again, progress is measured in degrees, so my back and shoulders are opening the slightest bit. But the bigger progress was made in my hatred of the pose going away.
In my writing, one of the more difficult things for me to do is write sympathetic characters. It’s not my nature, because I’m a Super Grump. I battle against the thinking that sympathetic characters are obvious characters. That showing the main character’s proverbial Save The Cat moment is the Like My Hero, Please! Moment.
I feel like if we come up against something that’s hard, our first impulse is to run away and not do it. We whine “But I thought because I liked doing something, everything I try in that arena should be EASSSSSYYYYYYYYY.”
If it’s your passion, when you hit a roadblock, you bust your way through it through hard work and perseverance. So I work on my Mose Pose, even though I can gripe and complain about it. And I work on writing sympathetic characters in non-cheesy ways, though I can bitch and moan about that, too. And I will get better.
Stay tuned for next month’s installment! Oh yeah, I’ve got a lot more to say, hahaha.