Monday, October 1, 2012


Writing about archery recently made me wonder about the extent to which movies devalue skills; and whether this matters. I suspect it does, both because it raises expectations, and because people get put off when they realize how hard an activity, such as shooting a bow, actually is.

If there is one thing I have learned in life, albeit inadequately and a little late, it is that almost anything worth doing takes substantially longer, and requires more effort, than you would think. This is particularly the case when the professional makes the task look easy. ‘Easy,’ in real life, is ‘hard’ – and often extremely hard.

I well recall the first time I tried to throw a javelin. The weapon was well balanced, and felt comfortable in my hand, so I had no doubt at all I could achieve a reasonable distance. In actuality, I achieved about a third of what I had estimated, and my arm felt as if it had been pulled out of its socket.

I have been pondering the whole issue of media’s tendency to devalue demonstrated expertise - as opposed to the excessive respect we seem to give to paper qualifications. Essentially, the consequence has to be a distortion of of our ability to assess a situation, and that is never a good thing.

Does all of this apply to writing? Answering that one really is easy. Yes, it does. ‘Easy,’ in writing terms, is very hard indeed; and finishing is even harder. If you doubt me, go write a book or a screenplay, or even an entertaining letter. Fortunately, the whole process is not so tough on your shoulder sockets.


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