Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chess and writing

I've been into chess recently. I learned to play when I was about 12. In fact, I can take you to the exact spot where I played my first game. I was never any good. Like most of us, I just kind of moved pieces around and tried to formulate some sort of half-baked strategy of attack while trying not to get clobbered or disturbingly embarrassed in the process.

After not picking up a chess piece in a long time, I've come back to study the game with a focus I've never had before. Chess has taught me a lot about life. Mostly it's taught me how to lose. When I was a kid I hated to lose. Be it chess, checkers, Monopoly--you name it, losing made me MAD. I wasn't a very gracious loser.

In college, a buddy of mine began to play me a game of chess every night. "You can't get better if you don't play," he'd say and promptly clean my clock. I started postponing playing him. I didn't want to lose. He must have caught on because he eventually said, "Look, Rick, everyone loses a game now and then. Even the Grandmasters lose. Chess is complicated and too complex for a human, no matter how good he is, not to make a mistake or miscalculate and lose. It happens. You will lose a lot. But the more you play, and the more you lose, the better you will become."

And he was right.

Same thing with writing. There will be lots of attempts, lots of failures, lots of plots that go nowhere, rewrites that feel like you're banging your head against the wall. But the more you write, the more you screw it up...the better you will become. And that's the whole point.

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