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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Why Skiers and Writers Need to Scout the Route

ski canstockphoto8850677 (2)Imagine you’re a cross-country skier pushing to get up a hill. The sky is dazzling blue, the air is crisp and you’re dressed perfectly for the weather. Your right boot is pinching your baby toe, but that minor irritation fades as you reach the top of the hill and look out at a wide expanse of sparkling, untracked snow on the down slope.

A clump of white-frosted blue spruce on the left calls your eye; skiing through the trees could be both beautiful and challenging.

There are so many ways you could go, so many possible routes. You could ski here all day and still have options. This is going to be FUN!

You probably should spend time exploring your options before you head down hill, but you’re eager to get started. You know you want to head toward the trees. You can figure the rest of the route as you go. So you push off.

You crouch over your skis, poles tucked tight against your sides, gathering speed. The wind makes your eyes water. You don’t notice it, but your breathing is faster and shallower. Your brain is flooding itself with dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. You shout in exhilaration.

The trees grow larger. You straighten up a little, trying to slow your skis, but you have so much momentum now. You drag your poles and struggle to snowplow your skis, but you can’t seem to dump speed fast enough.

The trees rush past you on the left. You inhale sharply and hold your breath because you now see an enormous cliff opening in front of you. Maybe an expert could handle the leap and land without injury, but you know it would kill you.

Your limbic system pours adrenaline and cortisol into the mix whirling in your brain and body. You finally manage to pull your skies to the left just in time to avoid the drop off.

You whip into and past trees. You duck and swerve as needle-tipped branches leap out at you, desperately trying to avoid slamming into one of the shaggy trunks.

why you need to plan your route canstockphoto1594095 (2)You trip and fall spectacularly, snow flying up around you, your skis seeming to go five directions at once. You lay panting, bruised and scared.

In a few minutes the snow that found its way down your neck and up your back will start to melt and your fear will give way to discomfort and embarrassment.

This was your first draft of your novel (or any other big piece of writing). It looked like fun at the start. It was fun – until you crashed.

The crash is why you need to scout the route – when skiing or writing.

If you’d like to know how to scout the route without losing the thrill, consider my Entering the Flow class at the Loft Literary Center.

Next post: The other reason you need to scout the route.

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6 Comments on “Why Skiers and Writers Need to Scout the Route”

  1. Joel D Canfield January 29, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Thanks for the palpitations. Now I have to go lay down and get my pulse and respiration back to normal.

    Beautiful and realistic analogy.


    • rosannebane January 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

      Thanks Joel! I think the “Dream the Ideal Balance of Outline and Draft” might answer some of your questions about accepting alternate timelines. Butler suggests you dreamstorm all the possible scenes without worrying about whether they’re contradictory or make sense. Embrace the ambiguity while you’re discovering the route. You might also find inspiration in Susan Gaines Sevilla guest post that will appear next Tuesday. Please let me know if those posts help.


  2. Tamrah January 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    I would love to take your class and could if it was offered anywhere from 1-4:30! 5-7 is a challenging time. Love love your book. Could playing mindless solitaire be considered “process” time? I enjoy it more than coloring. Regards, Tamrah


    • rosannebane January 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      I wish the timing worked for you Tamrah – it would be fun to have you in class! Solitaire is a tricky call because for so many people it’s more addictive than playful (that’s how Soduku is for me, which I do enjoy, but don’t consider Process). I think the question is whether you feel you’ve enjoyed creative play afterwards… Let me know what you discover so I can pass the info on to others with similar questions.



  1. Forget Answers – Writers Need Questions! | Bane of Your Resistance - August 22, 2019

    […] about the whole story. Drafting scenes prematurely is a pitfall I’ve learned to avoid. (Read more here first, second and […]


  2. Why Skiers and Writers Need to Scout the Route the Second Time « The Bane of Your Resistance - January 25, 2013

    […] previous post left you tangled up in your skies after you narrowly escaped the disaster of falling off the cliff […]


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