Tuesday, January 29, 2013



Are you a risk taker? Push limits? Bend the rules? Have you ever done something borderline (or not) illegal and got away with it? Your deep…dark secret. Or do you step on the cracks in the sidewalk? Walk under ladders? Own black cats just so they cross your path daily?

One is a "hang glider," the other a "skydiver." So what's the difference?

Hang gliding requires the use of tactical skills. If you know how to maneuver correctly and catch the right air currents, you can sail hundreds of miles. You coast silently above the earth, deciding the direction you'll take. The duration of your flight depends on how long you can physically hold the kite. 

For me, that means walk off the edge and plummet to earth. I have zero upper-body strength, so unless I catch the right current, my concentration isn't on flying, but landing.

Sky diving is for the adrenaline junkie. It's the rush of free-falling—completely uninhibited by anything. No strings, no rules, and deafening silence.

To step out of a plane; backwards and witness the sky up close and personal, or "kamikaze" (falling forward) and experience the heart-thundering rush of watching the world below through your own personal zoom lens, surpasses the hesitation of walking off a ledge with a kite already open.

Your safety net is folded and strapped to your back—not unfurled, rigid, and already catching the wind. Your life basically is at the end of a rip cord.

Your flight time, however, is limited and there comes the point of "no-return" where you must decide…open the chute or become a human puddle. Again, the adrenaline rush kicks in. How far can you safely push the envelope—enjoy ultimate freedom? And then the "what if" factor dances in your brain…what if the chute doesn't open? The back-up chute isn't positioned correctly?

Because (a) I am a control freak, and (b) a mega pansy-ass, I could never literally skydive. The same goes for hang gliding, although of the two and given no other option, like a root canal without anesthesia, I would choose this option (slower death and I could spin on the monkey-bar for old-time sake). True, when I was young, impetuous, and believed in such myths as "trust me baby" from the mouths of hunky heartthrobs, I actually considered sky diving (this is also where I must confess to possibly being old enough that hang gliding hadn't yet become a thrill seeking sport and my pet was a real Tyrannosaurus Rex).

So how does this fit you as a person? A writer? Easy.

How do you approach life? Your work? Your writing? Do you jump into things without evaluating everything you're going to need to complete the task and just deal with the speed bumps when they happen? If you're a writer, then you're probably a panster. A skydiver.

If you must have everything organized, arranged, your research complete and notes nearby (perhaps suffering a tidbit of OCD) before you start a project, then you are a hang glider, and if a writer, a plotter.
Both have their pros and cons. If you over analyze a project (edit a story to death), spend countless amounts of time in research, some probably unnecessary, then you've wasted time instead of gaining ground. You are gliding over the world, taking in all the scenery, and in some respect, avoiding the landing. A hang glider.

Writers understand this all too well. We edit, rewrite, re-edit, scrap, cut, pull our hair out, bare our teeth at loved ones, and end up hunched over our desk, our noses buried in chocolate and tears of frustration washing the residue from our cheeks. 

Yes, organization is necessary. We can't focus if too much clutter surrounds us physically or emotionally. But we have to be careful that we don't purposely pirouette for the sake of spinning. Sooner or later, we're going to crash if we don't make the decision to land.

While I've thought of myself as more conservative—a "hang glider," after writing this blog I find myself to be the opposite. I'm skydiving, free-falling, and praying my chute will open before impact. I hate itineraries. I love to explore side roads—take the scenic route (usually inside a car or a vehicle that can outrun wildlife if I'm in the woods). When I go on vacation, I don't want a timetable to follow. I want freedom.

As a writer, I love the thrill of creating in the moment—the rush of having a story unfold with characters playing out the scenes in my head as I vigorously type. That's probably why I hate editing. There are "rules" to follow and deadlines to be met. I've made procrastination an "art." But when I'm done and ready to upload my story to share with the world, I feel unbridled relief when my feet hit the ground (or the publish button) and my chute settles behind me, knowing I've "landed."

That lasts two seconds. I'm back in the plane and feeling the rush again as I climb each level, waiting to jump all over again.

"Riley's Pond" was my first jump and I soon discovered that cords get tangled easily and wind currents (critics and sales) can cause turbulence and make you anticipate a crash landing instead of a soft one, making you fearful of wanting to take the risk again. But I've survived a few rough lessons, learned some new techniques on packing the chute (which is bright yellow – more on that later) and I'm poised on the platform—the deafening roar of air rushing the sides of my plane, my heart in my throat.

My "Designer Genes" trilogy launches soon with Book One "The Boyfriend Cut" (gorgeous cover to the right courtesy of Kelli Ann Morgan, Author of "The Rancher" and owner of Inspire Creative Services) and from now until "jump day" I'll blog something to tie in a part of the story with life, either personal or professional.
Under the tab above, you'll find the excerpt from the story where Marli learns to "skydive." Sorry, no spoilers just know it's a very important part of the story. 

So when it comes to "risky business," either personal or professional, are you a hang glider or a skydiver? I've got to say either way, the view is breathtaking.


As always, thanks for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

Very nice analysis. I am a "pantser" in writing, but trying to be a little more organized so I don't go down too many false paths. Interestingly, I am more willing to try new things now than when I was younger. Just not sky-diving.

Calisa Rhose said...

Awesome analogy, Joelene! Love it. I'm a skydiver for sure. I never think to plan any of a book before starting the first chapter. Usually somewhere through the middle I end up checking a few facts, but that's usually it for me. Congrats on RP and DG! I'm very excited for you. And proud, very proud!

Sandy L. Rowland said...

A terrific post! I am also a control freak, but I've been a skydiving writer working to learn the skills to add hang gliding. Some plotting before I start my frenzied typing is a great idea for me. I've had to rework half a story because I came up no where. Done with forgetting to pack my parachute. Thanks for the lesson and best success to you on Designer Genes and all your work!

Joelene Coleman said...

I've attempted the plotter theory several times, taken lots of classes, but somewhere between research and writing characterization profiles, the characters just grab me and say "What the hell? Let's just get to it and we'll figure it our along the way!" Thanks for sharing.

PJ Sharon said...

This is a fabulous analogy for the writer. In life and on the page, I see myself as a fan of the "hang gliding". Although I'm not afraid of risk, I like the security of knowing I have some control over my fall and my landing. I also like the feel of flying (rather than plummeting) toward my destination. Love the cover of DESIGNER GENES and can't wait for the first book. I so enjoyed RILEY'S POND and you are a fantastic writer, so I bet the series is going to do great. Best of luck, buddy!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating article.

I was actually a hangglider in my younger days and I'm finding I need to change my pantser ways to becoming more of a plotter. So, good call.


Doree DePew said...

Absolutely love your analogy - I can see your face in decision :). I am a controlled feet on the ground freak. I don't swing with only the air below me, I've got to see and feel the net. But you, my friend are delightful and humorous, can't wait for Designer Jeans. Great cover. Kelli Ann's work is always wonderful. Good Luck.

Suzanne Lilly said...

I love this analogy! It's original and spot on. I'm definitely a hang glider; none of that free fall adrenaline rush for me!

Unknown said...

I think you're almost right on. I skydive. But I do not just jump into things head first and deal with it. In skydiving its hours of prepping and planning for a minute of adrenaline. I am by trade a autoCAD detailer. Thats computer aided drafting. Its planning, coordinating, and tons of research. I fold my clothes a certain way and put them away in desending color and organized by what type of clothing it is.