'Fore!' Ways to Improve Your Writing
In golf school, you learn about "course management," and no, it isn't about replacing your divots. It's about achieving the lowest score possible by selecting the shots, clubs and strategies best suited to your skills and limitations -- in other words, to play with your head, not your hubris.
Four principles of course management that help the pros can also help your prose:
No. 1: Don't overemphasize the tee shot.
On most holes, you probably hit a 1-wood off the tee, hoping to wallop a 400-yard drive, just like Bryson DeChambeau. But, alas, you have trouble controlling a 1-wood, so your shots often slice, hook or dribble into the rough or woods. You'd be better off hitting a 3-wood or 2-iron that lands on the fairway.
Likewise, writers shouldn't waste time fashioning a perfect opening sentence or paragraph. Better to write an OK opener that flies straight and true. Sometimes I even write my tee-shot sentence last to avoid getting too perfectionistic about it; do not try this in golf.
No. 2: Be a natural.
Just as each of us has a natural swing in golf, we each have a natural voice in writing. Trying to imitate someone else's form or style can tie our golf shots and sentences in knots.
Forget Chevy Chase's advice in "Caddyshack" to "be the ball." Instead, be yourself. Whether you're addressing the ball or writing the Gettysburg Address, find your flow and follow through.
No. 3: Know your limits.
Confronted by a water hazard, what do most of us do? Try to hit over it, of course. Be bold, be brave. Kerplunk! Let's try again. Kerplunk! You'd be better off angling two short shots safely around one side of the pond. Bold, no. Dry, yes.