What my muse learned from riding roller coasters

Riding roller coasters and writing have several similarities.

They both:

Go up and down
They both make you scream
They both make you laugh
The both can make you cry
They both start and end
They both are a lot of fun…except when they’re not.

I love roller coasters.  I always have.  My very first roller coaster was The Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags over Georgia.

I was 10 years old when I convinced my 8-year-old cousin to go on the ride with me and sit front row.  I lied and told him I’d done it a bunch of times just so I’d have someone to ride with.

I was hooked on coasters ever since.  My cousin…not so much.

What does riding the Great American Scream Machine have to do with writing?

Lesson 1:  I guess you’re either cut out for it, or you’re not.  You never know unless you try.

Six Flags was my hangout spot while I lived in Georgia.  I was there almost every weekend.  One of my other favorite rides was the Dahlonega Mine Train, a wicked fast steel coaster.  After moving to Florida 23 years ago, I tried out the Disney rides and while they were tons of fun, they didn’t hold the thrill, the passion of the larger, faster coasters.  I needed more.

What does this have to do with writing?

Lesson 2:  Maybe you like to write, but you’ve lost your passion.  You’re bored.  Move up to the next level and try something challenging.  You may be surprised at what you find.

I soon discovered Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida.  Can I have a big YEAH!  Now, Busch Gardens is no Cedar Point or King’s Dominion (trust me, they are both on my bucket list), but this theme park rocks and rolls.  When I first started going to Busch Gardens, they only had The Scorpion and the Python, two steel inverted coasters. The next coaster to get added to the park was Kumba in 1993.

It’s 143 feet tall, goes 60 mph, has 7 loops and pulls 3.8 Gs.  This machine is incredibly fast and roars like a tiger.

The next addition to the park was in 1996 with the yellow and blue Montu.  Give this ride a big Woot Woot!  It is 150 feet tall, goes 60 mph, has 7 inversions, pulls 3.8 Gs and is floorless.  Yes, that’s right, your feet hang beneath you.

(are you starting to see a trend here? :))

Then comes 1999 and the arrival of Gwazi.

OMGosh!  A wooden coaster!  Can I say how much I love wooden coasters. Don’t’ get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the steel coasters that strap you in and turn you upside down and make your tummy flip, but there is something almost super thrilling about a wooden coaster.  Maybe it’s the chain lift, or the rickety rackety sound it makes.  Or maybe that it’s made of wood.  This one is especially cool because it’s a dueling coaster, meaning there are two coasters that run side by side:  the lion (red) and the tiger (blue).  At one point, both coasters pass each other on the track and from the front seat, you get the perspective you’re going to crash.  It’s sort of like playing a safe game of chicken while going 51 mph.  While this coaster is the shortest of all the others, standing at a tad under 106 feet, it is a wicked, fast ride that whips you around and makes you laugh, a lot.  Max Gs on this baby…3.5.

The next baby added to the Busch Gardens family that I rode (this one is at Sea World in Orlando) is Kraken!

This ride opened in 2000, and at the time, was the tallest coaster I’d ever ridden, an amazing feat for someone who is afraid of heights.  It stands at 149 feet, is floorless, has 7 inversions and travels at 65 mph.  Max Gs on this baby…3.9!!

The next edition came to Busch Gardens in Tampa in 2005, with Shiekra.

Now, I have to tell you, this ride scared the beejeebies out of me for years.  For heaven’s sake you can see this ride from the expressway, several miles away.  That makes it taller than the vertical clearance (between bridge and water) of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I wouldn’t ride it.  I refused.  It was just too tall.  I’ve been over the Skyway Bridge.  It’s scary looking down at the water and imagining falling that far.  Uh uh. No way, no how.  But I didn’t have to worry about it for awhile as we sort of fell into a tight money crunch and I couldn’t go to my favorite theme park…until two days ago.  My husband and son wanted to ride this beast.  I said I had to check it out first.  I had to get my nerve up.

I stood there, looking at this 200 foot goliath of a coaster.  I had to watch it a few times, assess the situation.  Shiekra is unlike any coaster I’d ever seen up close and personal.  It’s a diving coaster, which means it takes you up, hangs you for about 6 seconds over the edge, and then freefalls you 90 degrees before carrying you into a vertical loop and onto the rest of the ride, which included another straight down 137 foot drop.  It is floorless, the climb to the top is some outrageous angle, like 85 degrees (you’re almost flat on your back), it tops you off for a few seconds at the top to give the rider a fantastic view of Tampa (and if you look hard enough, maybe even Orlando 90 miles away).  I jest but this sucker is high.  The first time you ride this ride, your breath is sucked out of your lungs (kind of like pitching your novel to an agent), and then you can’t help but scream the rest of the way.  This pup goes 70 mph, has one inversion and has maximum Gs of 5!!!!!  Yes, I said 5 Gs.  OMGosh!!!!

This fear-of-heights person rode this baby 3 times in a row on Friday, and 3 times yesterday.  I swear it is the reason I have no voice today.  That’s okay.   Whew…what a blast!

The newest ride added to Busch Gardens is Cheetah Hunt.

Man, this is a fun, magnetic coaster!  Don’t get me wrong – love The Hulk at Universal (it’s a blast), and Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but this one is just uber fantastic.

The ride opened in 2011.  It’s 102 feet tall, drops you 130 feet, goes 60 mph, has one loop, and maximum G force is 4.  I think it’s the longest coaster Busch Gardens has.  You’re launched out of the station, turn a corner, take a little dip and are then launched straight up where you then go into a set of helixes before falling 130 feet!  Later on in the ride, there is another launch that just sends thrills through the body.  This ride made me giggle and laugh and I rode it twice in row.

Again, what does any of this have to do with writing?

Lesson 3:  Try new things, no matter how much they might scare you.  Take the leap, even if you don’t think you can do it.  Get on the ride.  Talk to that agent or that publisher.  It may seem scary and difficult.  You may look up and say to yourself, ‘I can’t do this’, but do yourself a favor.  Take a minute, step back and assess.  Look at all those others who went before you, who tried.  They have smiles (or tears) on their faces, but they survived.  No matter what your hurdle is in writing, you’re not the first one who has been at that juncture.  You can do it.  You’ll either come out laughing, screaming or crying.  Maybe even all three.  Either way, you’ll come out alive and enriched from the experience.  And, after you pass the hurdle, you’ll probably end up riding the ride again because you’ll realize it wasn’t as bad as your fears led you to believe.

Are you ready to take the leap?  Go for it and enjoy the ride!