5 Things That Surfing Has Taught Me About Writing

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Coincidentally or not, I’ve been a prolific writer about the same length of time that I’ve been an avid surfer. Both of these things seem to fuel each other in my life. When surfing suffers my writing suffers and vice versa. My recent book even used surfing as a metaphor for business and creativity.

I think I can safely say that just about everything I know about writing, I learned from surfing.

1.You never know What You’re going to Get

Part of the appeal to surfing is its novelty. You can go to the same beach, surf the same wave, and it will be different every single time you go out. You really have no idea what you’re going to get. Some days suck. Some days are amazing. So you just show up as often as possible.

It’s the same with writing. Some days you’ll sit down at the blank page feeling like you can conquer the world. Other days you wonder why you bother, why anyone would pay you to write a book, or why anyone reads what you’re writing. Just like in surfing, you show up as often as possible.

2.You Keep Falling Until You Stand

When you start surfing, you fall ALOT. And to make matters worse, everybody else in the water makes it look easy and like they’re having the time of their lives. Somewhere along the way, you come to the realization that the more waves you go for the more you’ll catch. And that means you have to be willing to fall in order to stand.

When you start to put your writing out into the world it’s kind of the same. Nobody wants to read what you’re writing. When you read what other people write, it seems like they’ve got it all figured out, and they all seem to be having their work shared by thousands of people. But it’s in your willingness to suck and do the work anyways that you go from falling to learning to stand.

3.There’s no Moment of Arrival

A surfer’s path is life long. That’s why you see guys who are 60 years old in the water. Once you start, it’s not something you stop. There’s no pinnacle, just new and greater challenges. Bigger and faster waves to surf.

Anne Lamott once said the following about publication of a book.

Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you to soften, can wake you up. But publishing won’t do any of those things; you’ll never get in that way.

For anybody who is serious about writing, the path is life long one. Chances are if I’m physically capable, I’ll write even the day before I die.

4. You have to Put in Your Time

I’ve often heard friends cite their lack of upper body strength as the reason they’re unable to surf. They could do pushups, lift weights, and become really strong. But none of it will do much good. The only way you get better is with time in the water.

You can read a thousand books on how to be a better writer. You can scour the internet for every life and productivity hack under the sun. But there’s nothing that will improve your writing as much as sitting down and actually writing. Remember, prolific writing is a practice.

5. Live in the Moment and Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon

Surfing requires this constant balance between the present moment and anticipation of the next wave that’s coming. You’re constantly looking at the horizon for the next set, but also trying to focus on whatever is happening right this second.

Writers have to do the same. One of the essential qualities of fulfilling creative life is patience. We have to balance doing the work today while focusing on where we hope it will take us, and being open to a destination that we may not have planned for.

Surfing as impacted my writing as much as writing has impacted my surfing. I can’t imagine my life without either.

Before You Go…

If doing the best work of your life is important to you, you’ll love my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.

The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.


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