As a professional desk jockey my hamstrings are short, hip flexors tight and I snap, crackle and pop a lot. I drink way too much coffee but cut myself off when my shaking fingers can’t manage the keyboard. I’ve birthed two babies and suspect my core muscles will never be the same. And, after an inner ear infection, I find myself prone to unexpected vertigo that makes me spin.

But none of these physical deficiencies seemed to matter when I saw this. Slacklining requires physical skills that I definitely don’t have. And – with Youtube as my guide – it seems to be a world inhabited by cool, fit, energetic and nimble young people who have no fear or repetitive strain injuries.

Yet I can be relentless, focused and have no problem humiliating myself. And I’ve done years of yoga, so how hard could it be to balance on one foot and walk a straight line?

Yeah, it is really [profanity] hard.

Admittedly, I’ve just started. But I’ve been practicing multiple times every day as part of my writing breaks. After assessing my skills and improvement rate, my realistic goal is to be able to stand static on the line and not fall off by the end of August. And it turns out that one’s willingness to look foolish is a slackline prerequisite…My kids laugh at me. The neighbours (secretly) laugh at me. Hell, I suspect even the dog is laughing.

Yes, I’m that bad. And I LOVE IT.

Because here’s the secret bonus of slacklining. I can’t think while on – i.e., trying not to fall off of – a slackline. There are no writing deadlines. No grant financial reporting requirements. No anonymous reviewer shredding my manuscript. No AWOL graduate students, no departmental politics; no rats eating through the basement water pipes, no eldercare issues, no wondering if anything was defrosted in time for dinner.

Slacklining means turning off my brain, breathing with intent, engaging my reluctant core, glutes, hamstring muscles and focusing only on a distant point. In a hyper connected, constant deadline world, balancing on that red webbing is singularly addictive. And the daily practice, so far, seems to make writing easier when I sit down at my computer again [1]. Maybe it’s because I head outside to the line instead of pouring another cup of coffee. Or maybe something else is going on.

So will daily slackline practice translate in to a highly productive summer writing season? I don’t know but I’m willing to experiment with n=1. Stay tuned.


[1] With the anticipated caveat that falling off the line and breaking my wrist would be less than optimal for my writing productivity.