Wednesday, May 4, 2011

For Clod, Who Taught Me Something About Writing

"We writers are like horsemen. Some of us climb on one horse and walk it to the finish line. Some of us
trot. Some of us gallop. Some of us are pony express riders, starting on one horse, changing to a fresh one on the way...There are even some who manage three horses. Me, I'm a mule train driver. I hitch twenty-four of those little suckers up to my wagon, crack the whip, and if one dies along the way,
I cut it out of the traces and move on. What matters is the finish line." --Jane Yolen

In college one year, I elected to take horseback riding for a physical education credit. Because I'd had little experience with horses, the grad student in charge that first day paired me up with a horse appropriately named Clod. "Clod," he said, "is the gentlest horse in the stable."

Yeah, right. He failed to mention that the only thing Clod didn't like was to be saddled. The day I was supposed to do that solo, it took three guys to saddle him, he got so agitated. Things only went downhill from there. Almost literally, since it was winter quarter and, where I went to school, there were a lot of  hills on which to slip and slide, and snow and ice to go along with them.

Another thing. "Don't let him wander into the creek," they said. "You'll never get him out." He was stubborn that way.

Oh, dear--what had I gotten myself into?

Well, we managed, Clod and I, to finish the quarter together, even after the day I failed to cinch his saddle tight enough, and it began to slip to the side. And we did it all without galloping--something I told Clod I did not want to do. Ever. Others might think it fun, but not me. But Clod had a mind of his own and on the last day of class, when another rider sped past us, he took off in pursuit. And so...I galloped.

And, once I got over the initial shock, I actually found myself rather enjoying the ride.

When I came across the above quote, the memories came flooding back, and I realized that Clod is an apt metaphor for my writing life. All the elements are there--the idea of trying something new, the up-and-down struggles, the stubbornness and perseverance, the wild ride of it all. I have a little more respect for Clod now. Maybe, in an odd sort of way, our shared experience helped equip me as a writer. You think?

All I know is that I'm holding on to the writing life, and don't want to let go--slipping saddle and all.

Still, don't ask me to gallop!

Is your writing life like managing a horse or two? If so, what kind?

*photo courtesy of


  1. I live up the street from a stable and the horses are so sweet. You were a brave one with Clod! Love the quote. I'm definitely a trotter for sure.

  2. Well, I'm afraid I'm too dense to understand Jane's analogy, but I could relate to your story. I'm a city girl, but we raised two daughters on the farm, and between them they had five horses, all with distinct personalities, and oh, the stories I could tell about the horses.

    As for my writing life, hmmm ... I have absolutely nothing to lose by pursuing it, and much to gain (the biggest part of which could be self-awareness, and awareness of others) and so I have no fears whatsoever about it. It's just a fun game I'm playing in my spare time, which I hope to continue to play in a very big way once I'm able to retire.

  3. I love this post! What a fitting analogy (and I have to say, I've had a couple of people say "oh, this horse is gentle as a lamb" too, and the phrase almost always comes with multiple exceptions). I think I've gone through multiple writing horses, and now I'm looking for a longer term relationship :)

  4. What an experience! I love your analogy. It's been a long time since I rode a horse but now that I think about it, yes, sometimes my writing is like that. I remember feeling slightly out of control (I'm no horsewoman!), not knowing where the ride would take us. Good post!
    Have a great Mother's Day weekend,

  5. Oh yes, some days I can barely hang on!! Lately though I have been plodding along.

  6. Thanks for the comments:-) Looks like Ms. Yolen is right--we are all different types of horsemen/women in the world of writing. But with similar goals--the finish line! Good luck to all...