tennis, anyone?

Sara Israel, September 16, 2010

Last night I played an hour of tennis.  I’m guaranteed to do this at least once a week because I take lessons from my world’s perfect instructor, Eric Hatcher.

I’d dabbled in tennis before Eric, but I’d never thought about committing to it long-term.  Yet within a few months, I was having so much fun that I saw greener pastures.  I constructed (and still have) a short-term goal and a long-term goal.

Short-term goal:  Use my tennis lesson to purge my mind and return to a state where I can be creative again.

Long-term goal:  Become good at tennis in a way that warrants wearing a cute, legitimate tennis outfit.

I meet my short-term goal every week.  Thank goodness, because my work relies on that hour providing me with a brain vacation.  There’s something about playing tennis that sucks out every thought in my mind, save for, Hit the goddamn ball.  I simply cannot focus on tennis plus anything else.  And I’m on a court.  With a racket in my hand.  And tennis balls flying at me.  So tennis wins.

I come home physically tired but mentally refreshed, a combination I love.  And I typically find that, unbeknownst to me consciously, I’ve come up with a great idea for a scene I’m writing, or solved a plot problem, or found a new interesting layer to a character I’m developing.  The “surface” of my mind is perhaps clearing for tennis, but it turns out the brain waves run deep.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon before.  I used to sing in a relatively regimented fashion— serious choirs, private voice lessons.  In high school, I noticed that every once in awhile I’d land on a good essay topic for English class while I was singing in the choir room.  I even included that observation in my next English essay.  My English teacher was sooooo excited by my “find” and made suuuuuch an intellectual show of her excitement that I decided never to think about the connection ever, ever again.  (I was 14.  I wasn’t interested in an intellectual community.  I just wanted my bad bangs to grow out.)

In college.  Still singing.  I specifically remember a time when Handel’s Messiah helped me bust through a roadblock in a proof I needed to solve in order to turn in my linear algebra problem set the following day.

And then I stopped singing (in any serious fashion).

I didn’t really realized what I’d lost until I started playing tennis.

I’m grateful for having even this one mentally vacating yet creatively rejuvenating activity in my hopper, but I’m always up for other suggestions. . . Or new people to play tennis with me. . .

Oh, and as for the long-term goal:  I am a ways away yet, but I know exactly what the cute, legitimate outfit is going to look like.  A hot pink dress (but not too bright; no neon!), racerback cut, with white piping.  I can’t wait.

5 thoughts on “tennis, anyone?

  1. Missed this post back in Sept, but YES you are SO RIGHT. I often feel like I don’t have enough time for those kinds of brain clearing activities (and it generally ends up being something lame like dish washing – more appropriate for your next post). You’ve reminded me to prioritize these “breaks” – for the sake of the work, dammit!! Now I just have to find one that comes with a cute outfit.

  2. it is true – you never know where and when your breakthroughs will come. If in a cute tennis outfit, everyone wins.

  3. Loved this! And I’ve had this experience many times. I first noticed it when I simply was walking down the hall from my dorm room in grad school to the drinking fountain — and a creative solution to a script problem popped into my brain, all because I walked away from the pen and paper. Washing dishes, biking riding, all good, too.

  4. I feel the same way about boxing and hitting bags—minus the hot pink dress although I think you should have sparkles on it.

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