How to Sweep More Productivity into Your Writing Journey
No. 124 | By Christine Carron
During the Winter 2022 Olympics, I watched a few of the curling events. I don’t know much about curling, but I was particularly fascinated when pairs of team members—brooms in hand—would swoop in and sweep, sweep, sweep away in front of the stone, intent on helping it make its way to a winning position. Then the Olympics ended and that was that.
A Zing in the Making
Around the same time, I was in a bit of resistance about fully embracing my project management chops on the blog and in how I was marketing Goodjelly. I tried to work it in on the sly instead of owning it. I didn’t want to frighten off writers who had a negative view of project management and might worry that I was trying to hook them into a way of working that would crush their creativity and slow their progress.
I get it. Bad project management is no fun. It’s a bureaucratic, pedantic, controlling, stick-in-the-mud sandwich. So to avoid that connotation, I kept dancing around a key and unique part of the value I offer writers: how to integrate project management principles, strategies, and practices in service of building sustainable creative productivity.
One day, in the midst of this ongoing resistance, curling—or more precisely the sweeping part of curling—popped into my head, followed by the zing of a metaphor landing: That’s what writers need to know! Good project management is sweeping! It makes it easier for them to get their writing where they want it to go.
Aha! It was official: Time for some additional curling reconnaissance.
Cue the Curling Reconnaissance with Carol
In the serendipitous way that life often happens, around the same time as the curling metaphor zinged, my friend Carol Brown shared a post on social media about her and her curling team, the Ice Weasels. (Uhm, Ice Weasels? Hello, name awesomeness!)
Carol didn’t know it, yet, but she and (by extension) the Weasels were about to become my curling inside source. Luckily, Carol was game to chat and soon I was learning about throwing, shots, houses, skips, lines, buttons, rings, sliders, hats, hog lines and the like, along with, of course, sweeping.
“Sweeping is an art,” Carol said shortly after our Zoom call started. “It’s crucial, too. If you throw a stone heavy, you want all the friction you can get to slow it down, so we're not gonna sweep. If you've thrown the stone with a really good line, but it needs a little more, we'll sweep it on in.”
Curling is a team sport with four players on each side. At any given time one player is throwing, two are at the ready for sweeping, and the fourth player—most often the skip, the team captain—is directing the sweepers.
“The skip,” Carol said, “has to judge a stone moving across ice and decide when to tell the sweepers to get in and help to reduce the friction and when to step back and just let that stone go.”
What particularly delighted me about listening to Carol talk about curling was that I soon realized it is brimming with useful metaphors for the writing adventure. Sweeping for sure, but also . . .
Throw, Skip, and Sweep on in Writing Productivity
Curling is smart process in action, starting with the fact that the entire design of the game acknowledges that every throw is different, that some of those throws won’t be thrown “perfectly,” and that outside variables (like the “speed” of the ice) will impact the stone’s trajectory.
Even at the Olympic level, there is still a skip watching and assessing the situation, and sweepers at the ready to intervene in the stone’s trajectory. Indeed in my research, I learned that “curling is the only sport where you can change the direction of a projectile once it leaves the thrower's hands.” (Source: Hannah Osborn, Why does a curling stone curl?, Smithsonian Science Education Center.)
Often I see writer’s make a plan and then feel like they can’t change it, because . . . it’s the plan. So they are thinking of it more like a baseball—that it’s locked in permanently once its left their hands. That’s not a useful way to think about a plan.
Thinking of a plan as a curling stone is a more empowering, accurate metaphor. You make the shot (the plan) as best you can, and then, yes, it is out of your hands but only to a degree. If something goes awry, instead of beating yourself up (or letting your inner critic beat you up), you simply call in your inner skip and your inner sweepers and adjust the trajectory of the plan as needed.
The inner skip is crucial. Sometimes the writing adventure does feel like a stone sliding across ice. Like, Okay, I’m here and in play, but I have no idea where this is all heading. Taking time to step back like a skip and assess your journey from a wider perspective will help you identify adjustments you can make to keep yourself headed toward your goal.
Finally, from that moment of wider perspective, you have to be willing to send in your inner sweepers to do the work of keeping yourself on track. That is no small thing. “Sweeping is an aerobic workout,” Carol said, also adding that, “There's technique involved with it.”
That technique includes coordinating balance, body positioning, and body weight, all while moving across the ice, listening for commands from the skip, and staying in sync with the other sweeper. So an exercise of power, process, and grace, which are all key moves on the writing adventure as well.
Project Management Curling Style for the Win
As you might have gathered, I no longer have any fear about claiming my project management chops. Not when the project management style I am promoting is filled with curling flair. I now trust that that energy will call in writers who are hankering for what Goodjelly offers, no matter their previous views on project management. Writers, just like you, who are ready to throw, skip, and sweep on in more productivity on their writing adventure. Wahooo! You’ve got this!
And, of course: Go Ice Weasels!
Connection: Longtime readers of the blog might recognize Carol from Goodjelly’s 1-year anniversary post: Channeling Your Inner Carol, which happened to be the most read post of 2021. In a quite exciting update to that story, Erik’s agility skills have progressed so much, that Carol and Erik will be competing this year to qualify for the AKC US National Agility Championship. Good luck to both Carol and Erik! Wahoo!
Gratitude: Thank you to Carol for her time and to the Ice Weasels for letting me share their team photo and the inspiration for their name which you can read about here. Here they are, and per the their request, I am only sharing Carol’s name here on the blog. Happy curling, y’all! You've got this!