I often see comparisons to writing process when I'm training horses. Part of this is due to my personality, I'll approach different activities the same way, as do most people.
So far, I'm a punster in my writing. But I've started to study story structure while reading Larry Brook's books (check out his website Storyfix) and a lot of things are resonating with another part of my mind. The part that studied Physics and Math in school. The cool thing about Larry is that he doesn't completely pooh pooh pansting, so I've been able to weave his logic into what goes into my pansting subconsciously and what I must add later to create a whole, readable story. For future books, I'll plan some story points, then write to them while still letting my creative juices wander and find surprises. Which is what I think Brooks expects a punster determined to improve their craft to do.
I feel it works the same way with horses. Now, to be fair, I am not a full-time horse trainer. I take in horses for training when I have time, I buy problems horses and retrain them, and work with my own. I'm not on a schedule and neither are my manuscripts (yet) - which is the main reason these comparisons work. If I was trying to crank out four novels a year and train six horses at once, the comparisons would be different, but they'd still be there. Cross those goals and it all falls apart.
The way I approach a horse is with a very loose plan on what I need to accomplish that day. But sometimes the horse tells me they've got a hole that must be filled first. I can't throw a saddle on and tighten the girth if I've never despooked them (gotten them used to things touching them or flying around and hitting the ground). But there are still absolutely necessary skills a horse must have in order to be a safe animal to ride.
In the same way, I can't put a character in the middle of a crisis without providing the reader some background for why they should care about the character or the outcome of the crisis. But I absolutely must have a plot, turning points, pressure, and character development or it's not really an engaging story.
I can't walk into the arena and be determined the horse shall be ridden for the first time today. Yes, some trainers can. They're good (like some authors who can get away with prologues or skipping punctuation or are just great craftsmen) or they don't mind a little bucking while the horse deals with the new environment. I think a horse can be trained without ever bucking. I let them tell me when they're ready. When I'm done, all the pieces are in place and the result is a happy horse that's a joy to ride.
For writing, all the pieces still have to be there (in a reasonable order) but I can enjoy the ride of writing in the same way I hope my reader enjoys the read.
I also don't approach either with a recipe. Maybe I could spew out some cookie cutter books and horses if I did. But maybe I'll enjoy the process of creating an interesting story and watching the characters grow along with creating an amazing bond of trust with the horse and learn what story they want to tell me about their past and most importantly, where they want to go. Not all horses want to run barrels.
And in both cases, sometimes I need help. I'm working with a very sensitive mare with issues on a few things. I've laid all the groundwork, but I don't want to be the one in the saddle when she comes unglued. So I had a trainer friend work with her. Turned out she never blew up - only because I'd done a good job with the basics. Sometimes we have all the pieces of a story there, but either a critique partner or a professional editor needs to tug on one thread so the beauty of the whole tapestry falls into place. Don't be afraid to use you're resources!
What do you think? Do you have hobbies or jobs that you approach the same way as your writing, or are you forced to do things differently with either one? How does that make you feel? I'd really love to get some feedback in the comments so I know I'm not talking to the ether! Thank you so much for reading and commenting will just make my day!