Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Drawing to an Inside Straight

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I play poker. Just online and just for free, but I play. I suppose you're wondering what this has to do with writing.

Sometimes I use poker as a means of distracting my brain enough to unclog it. When I open the program and sit down at a table, the only part of my brain being used is the strategy part. That's not really a part I use much when I'm writing, so the part that actually creates the story is free to gambol about. If I'm drawing to an open-ended straight, and I can see a flush building on the table, do I try a semi-blush to throw other players out of the hand, or do I bide my time hoping I make my straight and the one card that helps me isn't suited to give the other guy a better hand? When you're worrying about pushing all your money in and either winning big, or busting out, you don't really have time to worry about the squirms (or writers' block, or whatever you call it).

Another thing poker has taught me that applies to this writing life is patience. You can play for hours and never end up ahead. You win a little and you lose a little, but if you don't have patience, you see you're not getting ahead and you leave - when your next hand could've been quads. So you bide your time. Sometimes you're doing all the right things and the cards aren't going your way. Sometimes you're getting the crap bluffed out of you by better players, but if you're patient and smart, you'll rake in the big pots. As long as you're patient, the odds are for it.

Sometimes you jump into a game and even though you think you know everything you need to know about the game, you find you still have things to learn. Every new table is a new learning opportunity. Every new hand teaches you about the game, about the other players, and ultimately about yourself. If you watch poker on TV, you'll see the best players are continually learning how to improve their game. (And even the best writers are finding better ways to write.)

And sometimes, the person with the best cards still doesn't win the hand. A suck out always hurts, but you survive and you keep going. (Or you quit and find a new line of work, which many have done over the years - both in poker and in writing.)

At this point, I could be trite and quote Kenny Rogers, but I think you all have the idea. Just remember, no matter what, you're drawing to an inside straight with one card to go. What's your bet?


spyscribbler said...

So very cool! I love this post! (Probably because I love poker, LOL ...)

Playing a lot of poker does tend to make me coldly analyze people. I walk through the grocery store and start guessing how they'll play and how I'll play them, LOL.

I know, it's weird!

B.E. Sanderson said...

LOL - there's nothing quite like slapping down a couple hundred thousand dollars in play money to get the blood pumpin'. Eh? ;o)

Wendy Roberts said...

I suck at card games of all kinds! My kids mock me LOL. But I LOVE what you say about "A suck out always hurts, but you survive and you keep going" that is just so true.

Travis Erwin said...

I am an avid poker player myself. There are some many great analogies you can make between it and writing. Here isa link to a post I did on this myself a good while back. If you're interested


WordVixen said...

Man, a little fleshing out and this would make a great Writer's Digest article.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks, Wendy. I suck a lot, too. That's why I only use play money. ;o)

I commented on your post already, Travis, but I'll say it here, too: Awesome analogy. Thanks for sharing.

And thanks to WordVixen for the praise. I never thought about sending anything to WD, and since I posted this, I can't send it along to them, but it's a thought. =oD