Juicing carrots, tempting fate


Back burner, I told you! The cycle of the last few weeks: Writing (not blogging, obviously). Stalling. Skiing. We ski almost to excess, two or three times a week, my dodgy joints creaking in protest. I ration out my anti-inflammatories and give up running and most of my Pilates, which between them seem to flare up my knee and hips, in an effort to make it through the season fully functional.

My skiing improves, plateaus, regresses. I finally have my first-ever lesson, whereupon I realise I’ve actually been doing it wrong all along; I regress further, and eventually improve again, coaxed into speeds that continuously terrify me. I can’t shake my deep-seated suspicion of spazziness, and impending disaster, and count every run I make to the bottom in one piece as a win.

Impelled by four hours of weekly Friday ski school, the boys get better and better, far surpassing me in daring and, in Firstborn’s case, style. Hapless concedes that Firstborn is poised to surpass even him in confidence and creativity. (Number Two Son continues to be all speed and no finesse, surviving each run by the skin of his teeth, more or less straight down the mountain [apart from regular diversions to jump off banks and cliffs], his weight so far back he looks as if he’s lounging in an easy chair, regularly catching an edge and bailing out, limbs and skis in all directions.) Their favourite things are the Gravity Cross speed track and the Mini Park jumps and grinds, over which I decline to accompany them (“Come on, Mum, just do it!”), feeling that statistically, given the sheer volume of my current exposure to snow + gradient + gravity, fate is being tempted quite enough.

The weather, as it is everywhere, is unseasonably warm throughout much of July and the whole of August, and the snow periodically suffers, though not enough to really interfere with our skiing. (We hear sad tales of those near Queenstown on their once-in-a-lifetime ski term barely able to ski, and see the woeful pictures of the Winter Games competitors slaloming over little more than icy mud.)

With all the sunshine and mild temperatures, we do feel slightly ginged out of our proper ball-breaking Otago winter, though we had enough of it in May and June to put some metaphorical hairs on our chests, and are in fact secretly relieved not to have the full extent of our cold-tolerance mettle tested.

When we’re not skiing, I spend a steady 5+ hours a day at my desk, weathering the ongoing cycle of buzzy, productive days and miserable, hair-tearing ones. I conclude that writing is a low-yield activity, like juicing carrots: a huge amount of pulp and mess for a few mls of something worthy, but of dubious purpose.

Writing for a series of short story competitions gives my work focus and impetus, but returns me to the tyranny of the word count. Close to a belatedly-discovered deadline, I spend a whole week working on two stories that in the end I abandon, deciding in my new ‘creative writer’ preciousness that they cannot possibly be done justice in 3000 words.

The point of the competitions is to try and close the feedback loop; to solicit a hint of dispassionate opinion, however non-specific, that I’m not completely wasting my time. And mission accomplished: I get two stories shortlisted in one comp. For now, that’s enough to keep getting me out of bed in the morning.

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