On Balls in the Air

Jul 19, 2021

By Christine Carron

I’m learning to juggle. I’m about three weeks in. My process, for the most part, has been (a) throw balls into the air, and (b) watch balls fall to the earth. On occasion, my hands interrupt the falling. A joyful squeal may have (okay, totally did) come out of me the other day when I managed to get three balls going and then caught said three balls for a total of five times. 

I got this whole tossing balls side trip started because I'm taking Jim Kwik's speed reading class on Mindvalley. Juggling is a recommended activity. It helps with relaxed focus, a key skill for effective speed reading, and it also just generally beefs up your brain

But speed reading and buff brain benefits aside, I’ve found juggling to be a delightful complement to writing due to what it teaches you about failing. 

The fails are clear.

Since I started juggling, I’ve experienced exuberant pleasure when the balls fall. It was a little weird at first how excited I got about my incessant fails. But then I realized that what I was really tickled by was the absolute clarity that I had indeed failed. After years on the writing adventure, I cherish such clarity. 

In juggling, the balls tell you you have failed by hitting the ground. Or perhaps gravity is the one telling you by grabbing balls away from your wildly reaching hands. There’s no such immediacy or clarity built into the fails of writing. 

The fails are fast. 

Reflecting on errors helps us grow and develop. By failing fast and with razor sharp clarity, I can make adjustments sooner. Watch a video for tips. Videotape myself and assess. Consciously try different angles of my hands, the height of the balls, the timing they leave my hands, etc. I learn and get better faster. Three balls! Five catches!

That revision I’ve been working on since the end of last year is finally out to first readers. So, six months plus to execute the revision (i.e., the toss) and a few weeks to wait for the much appreciated feedback (i.e., the catch or the fall). Compare that to less than a second to throw and less than a second for either my hand or gravity to win on the ball’s downward trajectory. Juggling fails are such quick-thrill pleasures!

The fails are fraught free.

If I throw a ball into the air and it falls, I’ve invested only an eyeblink of time. And juggling is fun. And it entertains the Wonder Dog, which is always a bonus. But likely the most important aspect of juggling is that I have no attachment to it. I have no intention of someday re-quitting my day job and hieing off to the Circus of Not-Quite-Extraordinary Jugglers. 

My sense is that attachment (i.e., wanting something very, very, very much) has a tightening effect. I am guessing that most folks on this writing adventure really (really) want to be successful writers. Which of course is attachment. Which of course is human. 

I mean, I can’t be the only one who has had dark, sloggy writing days filled with self-doubt, frustration, and overwhelm. Days where there was some wishing it were possible to speed through the learning, and struggling and definitely through the failing. Perhaps there may have been days where a supplication or two were made, complete with incense and chimes: Oh Great Writerly Powers Above, could we please bypass the fails and learning part (and heck, maybe even the slog of writing!) and just make me a successful writer already? 

Goodjelly’s mission is not only to help writers revel in the delights of the writing adventure but also to re-find their joy when it is lost.  Attachment to the end goal/dream can mess with the joy of the journey. It often has a debilitating effect on key qualities that are great to embody on any long-term journey: grace and patience. Both those qualities help us fail with panache. Which is important since learning and growth are on the other side of those fails. 

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Juggling allows us to practice failing, failing fast and having fun while doing it. Add it to your writerly toolkit. It will have a crossover effect on your writing. Beefing up not only your brain but your confidence during the fails. So you didn’t land that metaphor or the opening scene or the agent or the book deal yet? Just pick up your writerly balls and get them back in the air. 

Oh my. That last sentence took a connotatively risqué turn. I’m sticking with it. Balls in the air, peeps! You have got this!


The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week

  1. Take up juggling. (Start with rolled-up socks.) 
  2. Take up juggling. (Or start with lemons or oranges.) 
  3. Take up . . . juggling! (Or get yourself some styling juggling balls.)
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