About Me

I'm a writer, a librarian, a reader, and a teacher. Look for me on Watt Pad and check out my current series in progress: Fragments of Alchemy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tennis Writing Metaphors with a Growth Mindset

"I wish I could draw better, so I could illustrate my own picture books."

"I wish I was artistic at all."

~An exchange between myself and my husband as we were walking home from tennis tonight.

My husband and I walk to the tennis courts to meet our friends, a married couple who have recently started playing tennis with us. It is good exercise, and even though I am not very good at it, I still think it's fun.

I wanted this blog to be bigger than just a space to write about my every day life. I never dreamed I would be writing about my awful tennis skills, but I have found that sometimes life lessons can be related to writing. Here is a metaphor for you.

So, as I mentioned, I am no good at tennis. My friends and I have tried many variations of teams, and each time, the losing team is always my team - until tonight that is. I took tennis lessons when I was eight years old. I learned some basic things, but I quit before I had a chance to see if I could be any good at it. Now, coming back to a sport that I paid money to practice as a kid, I just get inside my own head too much.

As the ball comes soaring my way, I find myself thinking about how I'm gripping the racket, or I focus too much on the ball - or not enough - and I whiff it, big time. Tonight, I even lost my hold on my racket and sent it sailing across the court.

With sports, players are supposed to build muscle memory. So when something goes right (hurrah, I actually connect with the ball and it goes over the net) I always try to remember how it felt. Chances are, when it comes my way again, I'll be thinking too much about recreating that exact motion, and the ball will go through my legs. But with time, muscle memory is supposed to take over, and before you know it, you can return lightning serves without thinking about it. Your body just knows what to do.

My husband is a master at all sports. With him coaching me, I was finally on the winning team tonight. With the right partner, I could finally shine. I think if I played again tomorrow, I might even show some improvement. The idea is to have a growth mindset about it. To know that every time I try, it helps me improve, even if only a little. So instead of saying I am no good at tennis, what I really should say is: I am no good at tennis . . . yet! (This phrasing is subtle, but teaching it to a classroom of nine-year-olds can help shift attitudes toward growth and improvement and away from stagnation and giving up.)

Everyone should have a partner who inspires you to shine and trains you to develop your muscle memory. (If you can't meet with a partner, you can still practice your serve or hit the ball against the wall to work on your return volley. Maybe even watching a video or reading an expert book could help you with your technique.) The goal is to improve ever so slightly every day, so that the next time you sit down, you can write without thinking about where the ball is at, so to speak.

With a growth mindset, heck, I might even illustrate my own picture books one day (that's a big MIGHT).

Hoping this inspires someone out there,
~AC Sutliff

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