I have a bow in my closet. I haven’t used it in a long while, but in a couple weeks I’m going on a little trip where I’ll perhaps have a chance to shoot some arrows, so I got it out. Mostly I wanted to do this so I could remember how to put it together and get it strung so that I won’t look like a complete bungler if and when I have a chance to shoot. It went kind of ok. The bowsight and I do not get along.
I am just weird enough, though (plenty weird enough? Probably better) to think that it’s pretty cool that I have a quiver and arrows and a bow. I need to get them out more. Getting the archery things out and sorting through them got me thinking about why I like archery (because I can indeed overanalyse any damned thing) and I thought I’d write about that today.
I should pause for a moment to point out that I am not good at archery. I mean, making the arrow go flying is not terribly difficult and you can learn to do that in about 5 minutes. Getting the arrow to go vaguely where you’d like it to is a whole ‘nother thing and I am Not Real Good at that. Even so, it’s ok to be Not Real Good at things and I do enjoy shooting some arrows despite my shocking lack of aptitude for it.
One reason is of course that I studied medieval history and I love the Robin Hood stories and thus shooting a bow and arrow was always something I wanted to try. I took some lessons and was surprised how much fun it was though. I even bought a bow (perhaps unwisely, given how much time it has spent not being shot, poor thing). It is a skill with virtually no practical applications (given that I don’t, and wouldn’t want to, hunt) – of course I like it.
There’s something very tangible about the whole process. If the problem is making the arrow hit the target, it’s relatively clear how to solve that problem. Get the stance right. Draw the bow correctly. Control your breathing. Release the arrow smoothly. Whoosh. Thunk.
The difficulty comes from actually doing all these things, and is where I am Not Good, but what needs to happen is clear. That’s a relief from struggling with other problems where the solution isn’t clear at all. How do I fix this? How do I make this situation better? What can I do? Not knowing what even might work in addressing various problems can be fairly stressful, so having a challenge where you do at least know what needs to be done is refreshing. Even if actually doing it remains, ah, a work in progress.
There’s a wonderful immediacy to it as well. Whoosh, thunk. Up and to the right. Adjust a little. Whoosh, thunk. Still a little right. Whoosh, thunk. A bit left, now. No waiting what can sometimes seem like unfairly long stretches of time to see what results your actions bring. And of course, it’s all ultimately under your control, even if that control is (ahem) not exactly perfect. There’s nothing stopping you making the perfect shot except you. Many of life’s usual problems are not exactly so easy.
This is all threatening to get a little zen and I am not going to start talking about spending one’s entire life shooting one arrow, but there is something refreshing and calming about focusing on shooting a bow, for a little while, as a break from whatever the heck else is going on. I suspect that part of it is that like a lot of tasks that demand concentration, you just can’t fret about whatever else has been gnawing at your mind while you’re focused on archery. Like writing (for me, anyway), it’s another time out.
To drag this blog screaming back to its alleged subject (writing, I swear) there is another thing about archery that strikes me just now. I know the difference between me being Not Real Good at archery and being, at least, better is simple. I need to shoot a lot of arrows. My archery teacher was in the Olympic trials and she shot several hundred arrows a week. Obviously there’s a degree to which talent or natural ability probably affects the ease at which you learn, but the only way to improve at archery is to Do Archery. It’s the same with writing. You get better at writing by doing it.
I intensely regret, now, the amount of time I left my writing ‘bow’ in the closet and didn’t write anything at all. I’m trying to make up for that now. But this is getting dangerously close to Advice again, and I still have to figure out that bowsight.
I’ll try to do better the next time.