Flogging a dead horse: writing hard but never reaching the happy trails…

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans knew not to flog Trigger after he died. They stuffed him instead.

Writing and riding have a lot in common, in addition to being (almost) homonyms. Both are learned skills that demand patience, a sense of control, discipline and an ongoing relationship with a powerful beast. The beasts are: 1) a real horse (in the case of riding) and 2) you (in the case of writing).

With either beast, if you employ motivational whipping too enthusiastically, you might fail to notice that you are flogging an animal that has collapsed. The impulse to push for more and more can run amok and reach a threshold where it works against you.

I knew a woman who had been working on her doctoral thesis for 8 years, and she was not a procrastinator. She worked 8 – 10 hours a day and did not allow herself vacations or even breaks on the weekends. Her determination to finish was so intense that she had depleted her energy and lost her ability to judge how to structure the project. She was able to force herself to sit down at her desk every day, but she could no longer decide what to do. She rewrote passages repeatedly, only to reject and rewrite them again. Her confusion and anxiety then drove her to work even harder, with a desperation that only took her further from her goal.

All writers are different, and some need a bit of the whip to stay the trail and not run back to the barn. But writers and riders both need to be in balance to succeed. An industrial sized super-ego that beats us relentlessly and demands an extraordinarily  high level of productivity will usually beget rebelliousness, fear and exhaustion, in both horses and humans.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans tamed Trigger, but never broke his spirit, and Trigger developed the skill and confidence to become an international movie star. And even since his passing, Trigger’s stuffed, unflogged hide continues to be admired by millions.

If you tend to flog yourself too much, study Roy and Dale’s “firm but gentle” approach, and maybe someday you will be able to stuff a book or two for the public to admire.

Happy Trails!

About David Rasch

Author, psychologist, speaker, teacher, consultant, workshop leader
This entry was posted in Common Writing Block Problems, Famous writers, Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Flogging a dead horse: writing hard but never reaching the happy trails…

  1. Fakewoman says:


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