Dedicated to all who write. An extended metaphor.


Writing hates the bridle.

She bites me as my fingertips strike the keys. Head thrown back, she whinnies her condescension. “Who do you think you are?! What do you think you’re doing?! Why do you think you can write?!”

She has thrown me to the ground more times than I can count. Dusty, sore, sometimes a broken bone or two, I look up at her thinking how stupid is the ol’ saw “You’ve got to get back up on the horse!”

Maybe if I just left her alone for an hour, day, a week, she would treat me better. But I know better. Her nature would not change for the better.

Struggle would not mellow with age. I agonize over a word, a phrase, even constructing a sentence. I revel in process and product through screams of agony and despair through shouts of victory and conquest.

She does not let me on her. I grab her mane swinging one leg over her bare back. I hang on hoping I can hold on. Sometimes we trot, sometimes we gallop, but always we fight: she to throw me off, I to hang on.

No one can understand the horse I ride, save those who endure the *15 hands of composition.

“Composition” assumes I am composing, yet “compost” is often the result. A composite of manure minglings compose my latest offering. My writing lifts its tail just far enough to let loose the current submission, turning her head to laugh at me.

I break out the backspace shovel and the delete wheel barrel.

But, when broken, her saddle is a perfect fit. She gallops. I feel the wind through my hair. The force of her hindquarters propels us both. Her withers shimmy, my legs record each flank muscle thrust. I hear her breathe. I join her in the exaltation of hurtling obstacles.

Each minute on her back is relived again and again, read over and over, the words, the writing, the writer, become one.

In those moments, we no longer need the bridle.

Dedicated to all who write, with special thanks to IUPUI’s Steve Fox and The Hoosier Writing Project, June, 2017, my fellow riders, my fellow writers. Mark teaches writing to both high school and PhD students and is President of The Comenius Institute (site). Picture credit:

* 15 hands is reference to a horse’s height in human hands

Like this Article? Please Share:


  1. Yes. A thousand times. As I go to my writers group today, I’m a bit afraid of jumping back on knowing the struggle to stay on, but it’s always worth it. Eventually, someday, the struggle will be less pronounced.

  2. Dr. Eckel, this is amazing.

    The bane of my existence: staring at the words “Chapter One” for hours on end, trying to construct the first sentence, only to delete it, and the process repeats a thousand times.

    Happens with short stories and academic writing, too. For me, the greatest hurdle is the beginning. But when it finally happens, we’re off, and it is only if I choose to stop that the momentum breaks. Oh, the sweet ecstasy of writing when that happens.

    But usually it’s a horrible, excruciating process to even get the plane off the ground.

    Thanks for this! 🙂

  3. After I got laid off I wrote a book about guinea pigs for adults. The words flew of my fingers.

    Then I sent my manuscript to an editor who used green ink for her markup. It looked like it had been hit by guacamole, hard. Days of revision, phone calls, three rounds later she was happy and I was happy.

    My daughters loved seeing all that green. Writing is a humbling experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *