Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hitting a Strike

It didn't matter to me that the bowling ball I used in junior high school only weighed eleven pounds, or that I didn't throw it hard. What mattered to me, to my score, to my team, was where the ball hit the pins, and how many of them fell. Sometimes they fell very slowly. But a lot of times, most of them fell. When I would make one of those agonizingly slow strikes, I would turn and take a bow and say, "I'm not a power bowler -- I'm a finesse bowler."

Because I didn't have the strength to use the ball to overpower the pins, I worked on control. I could get the ball to go where I wanted it, with just enough speed and spin to knock things down.

Bowling was my only athletic effort in junior high and high school, and I did end up with a couple of trophies. Maybe my choice of sports shaped the way I approach work, and the kind of work I like to do, or maybe I chose my sport because it was a way to use a natural inclination. Either way, here I am some thirty years later still wanting to finesse whatever I do.

Webster's New World Dictionary gives this as the first definition of finesse: "adroitness; skill." And adroit is defined as skillful and clever, from a French word meaning "lay straight." Adroitly is how I tried to bowl.

So, you're wondering where the connection is between bowling and writing. Think about it. There are power writers, and there are finesse writers. From those I'm familiar with, I would use Stephen Jay Gould as an example of a power writer. He overwhelms a subject with a flood of words, but they are magnificent words and he uses them well. When I started reading Gould I had to keep a dictionary handy. The boundaries of my vocabulary have been expanded enormously as a result.

On the other hand, my personal favorite finesse writer has to be C. J. Cherryh. She uses an absolute minimum of words, with tremendous effect. But I'm sure neither of these writers started out with all that power, or all that finesse. When I started bowling, a lot of balls went in the gutters. And a lot of my writing still goes in the trash. But if I keep practicing, my score is bound to improve.

crazybasenji aka Grammar Gestapo


Cheryl said...

Very thought provoking post, crazy. I'm not quite sure where I fit in yet, but no matter what, I am bound to improve too.

Good luck with your writing...and your bowling. LOL!


Snow said...

Interesting post. Thank you for sharing.


Laura said...

Hey Crazy,

Good post and I like the bowling metaphor.

Like CC, I don't know where I fit in. Part of me wants to choose finesse because it sounds classy! lol

Lorrie said...

I like bowling.

And I like this analogy.

I received a trophy for bowling, once.

Hmm . . . perhaps there's hope for me yet.