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.