I’d had roller derby dreams for years.
I love roller skating. I love the fun names. I’m amazed by the grace and athleticism, the skill and tactics. And yes, I was definitely even more swayed after seeing the movie Whip It. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be part of a team of tough, hilarious women with cool hair and tattoos? Women who have your back no matter what.
So after I moved to Grand Rapids, I decided it was time. I joined the roller derby training team.
I didn’t make it far. At all.
First of all, I lacked the aggression, which is kinda sorta SUPER necessary in roller derby. I thought I’d be able to magically harness it somehow, but no. I’m a “you go ahead” and “please and thank you” sort of girl. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of these types of ladies in roller derby! But not while playing the game. Big difference.
Not that I even played! And that is the second–and biggest–point. I loved training. I loved skating as fast and hard as I could, dodging obstacles and learning new skills. But when it came time to scrimmage, my stomach would do a flip-flop and I’d feel suuuper anxious. There was so much to think about, keep the rules in mind, keep moving, help her, keep blocking, stop her.
I realized that I actually didn’t like playing derby. And that was crushing. Watching, cheering, yes–even training, all great! Playing? Not so much. So I quit. I felt silly and weak. Just another derby failure who couldn’t hack it.
But on the bright side, I did make a few friends throughout my short stint. One friend was on my training team.
And here’s where things get interesting, because looking back, I am 1,000,000,000% sure that the reason why I joined, tried, and failed roller derby was to meet my writing buddy.
I don’t know if we would have ever crossed paths if not for derby training. And even if we did cross paths, we would have never had those first few minutes of warm-ups when we would circle the track together and chat.
I learned that she was a writer. I had some pieces of a novel that I had been working on here and there for the past few years, nothing I was really confident in sharing or even talking about. So instead I asked her questions about her book and got excited in her progress. It was always fun to see her and hear about how writing was going.
We didn’t really stay in touch after I quit derby training. I returned to my solitary hobbies: music, maybe a little writing, and reading, including comics. One of my favorites is Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga. I read those books from cover to cover, literally. And I enjoy his letter column in the back.
In one issue, someone asked Brian how to become a comic book writer. One of the things he suggested was finding a group of people to share your work with and get feedback. He mentioned being part of a writing group and how much it had helped him.
Before I could talk myself out of it, I texted my old derby pal and invited her out for drinks to “catch up.” Little did she know of my ulterior motive to ask her to be my writing buddy…muah ha haaaa.
We hadn’t seen each other for year or so, and I remember wiping my palms on my jeans repeatedly. I was so nervous, it was like I was about to ask her to marry me! I mean, it’s not far off. We could have had a lovely ceremony! “Friend, will you be my writing buddy? To edit and to encourage, whether in fiction or nonfiction, from drafts one to one million, for richer, for poorer (mostly poorer), in sickness and in health, sicknesses ranging from the common cold to the ‘I think I’m going insane, should I change my beginning again’ variety…”
Anyway, I popped the question, and…
She said YES!!!! (Pop the champagne, let’s get each other rings that say we’re dedicated writing buddies and you can never leave me ever, okay?)
Kidding aside, making a pact with her changed my life. I would most likely still be tinkering with my story, no end in sight. But with her help, we set goals together. We encouraged and listened and asked questions and got feedback and laughed and championed one another. It was all I needed to really dig in and focus and write the novel I’d been wanting to write for so long. And huge bonus, maybe the whole point: I gained a very dear and treasured friend in the process.
Isn’t that funny, though? I had to try and fail at something that I thought meant so much to me, just so I could meet the person who I could trust with my work and who shared my passion for writing and the need for a creative buddy.
Next weekend we’re off to Chicago to pitch our respective novels to literary agents.
And if it weren’t for roller derby, I very much doubt I’d be saying that.
Life is wild. Wonder what hidden gem will be contained in my next failure…