J.M. Bray is currently working on Tearing the Shroud, a paranormal novel set on a college campus featuring twentysomethings who develop deep friendships, learn about love, and make life-altering choices. Bray is also a race car driver. When he responded to my most recent call for guest bloggers, I took a look at his website and asked him if he’d be willing to do a post about writing and racing. He happily agreed. In fact, he liked the idea so much he agreed to do a giveaway in connection with this post — a ride in his Porsche 924S race car at a performance driving event in San Diego. Details for entering the giveaway are below. For a preview of the fun, click here!
How Writing is Like Racing
“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”
– Ernest Hemingway
I understand Mr. Hemmingway’s sentiment because in all three of these you have to be willing to put yourself on the line in order to accomplish your goal. Fear only inhibits your abilities. It holds you back, slows you down, and if you give into fear at the wrong moment, jeopardizes your life.
For me, racing my Porsche 924S and writing have many things in common–fear being one of them. How many novels languish in digital purgatory or gather dust on a shelf because the writer lets fear hold them back? In my search for an agent, every time I send an email, my heart pounds like it will come out of my chest. The possibility of rejection actually causes a greater reaction in me than turning into a corner at ninety miles an hour without using my brakes. Does fear affect your writing? How so?
Seat time, is another similarity between writing and racing. Ask any performance driver how to get better and their number one answer will be, “Seat time.” You can buy or build the fastest car on the track, or have all the natural talent in the world, but nothing will make you go faster than practice. I would further narrow that to practice in your specific car. To write well, we first have to write…and write. Then, when we get done, write some more. However, just like driving your own car, shouldn’t writers also practice specifically what WE write? True, any writing will help, but I believe what make us better is writing the style, genre, characters, and tales that come from our hearts. When I push Tuffy–yes, my car is named after my childhood dog–into a corner, I know exactly how he will react. I know the moment he will start to slide and usually how far. Why? Because I’ve put in the necessary seat time.
Twitter, Facebook, emails, texting, and blogs are necessary these days. They are all places we can practice writing. However, I often wonder how much better each of us would be at our craft if we used the time we spent in these places actually working on our books. Focused, intentional seat time—what’s keeping you from getting it?
Though I could go on for pages, let’s end on something upbeat: Control…or…the lack of it. Recently, at Buttonwillow Raceway, I had a goal. I wanted to break the class record by four seconds. I pushed every section to the limit, trying to shave slices of time. Eventually, my efforts overcame my ability to control Tuffy, and we spun off into the dirt at nearly one hundred miles an hour…two separate times. In writing, few moments bring more joy than to sit down with a scene in mind and come out on the other side having no idea how you got there. We bring our characters to a certain point, we push them for all they’re worth, and then they take over. Have you ever sat back and thought, Wow, I didn’t see that coming? Tell us about it.
By the way, though his clutch was nearly gone, we ended up breaking the record by eight seconds, which is an eternity in racing. I wonder how Tuffy did that? I’m not sure, but I think Hemingway would have smiled.
J.M. Bray is the author of the paranormal novel, Tearing the Shroud, and is currently seeking representation. He lives in Southern California with his wife Kari and their dog Bolt. He can be found online at his website and on Twitter @JMBrayBooks.
Details on J.M. “Mark” Bray’s Awesome Giveaway
To enter to win, leave a comment below. The contest will be open until midnight EST on 1/11/13. The winner must coordinate the date and time for their ride with Mark. The winner is responsible for getting themselves to the track. (In other words, the giveaway is a race car ride, not a trip to San Diego ).
Since this is the start of another guest blog series, I want to remind everyone of my guest blog giveaway policies: All guest blog giveaways are the responsibility of the guest blogger. Winners are usually chosen randomly by the guest blogger. The guest blogger is responsible for notifying winners. Winner’s names will sometimes be posted in the comments. I am not responsible for any prizes or giveaways that are not delivered or awarded. Entrants, please make sure we can find you online! All giveaways, prizes, and contests void where prohibited.
So, readers and writers, what goals did you meet in 2012? Were there times when you “spun off into the dirt”? Are you ready for another try? Let us know in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a ride in Mark’s Porsche 924S!
Mark, thank you for guest blogging today!