March 13th 2015
Today I spent an entire hour trying to throw a ping pong ball into a cup from 10 feet away. On a related note, I also spent about 59 minutes failing to throw a ping pong ball into a cup from 10 feet away.
I tried everything.
Under arm. Over arm. One bounce. Two bounces. Back spin. Side spin. Hotdog.
It started because a couple of my housemates had had a couple of friends over for drinks before going out, and they were playing beer pong. The much easier, classicer (not a word) version of the game I afterwards started playing. And when they left, and it was again safe to enter the kitchen, there were ping pong balls and plastic cups dotted around the kitchen. So naturally a competition developed between the three of us left in the house.
From a chosen spot, we all tried to throw a ball in a cup on a table. One of us played ball collector whilst the other two tried throwing. And after a while we’d switch. This carried on for about half an hour, when the first (unsuccessful) competitor had had enough and went to bed. At this point we expanded the game by putting the cup in the middle of the room and standing either side of the room, so if we missed our shot the ball would bounce through to the other player. Maximum efficiency.
Ten minutes and countless failed attempts later Player 2 retired, defeated.
Now, in this blog, we’ve been over the fact that I am not a very committed or dedicated person quite a bit. But there was literally no way I was going to go to bed until that ball went into that cup.
And by the fact that I am now in bed writing this, you can gather that, eventually, it went in. In the end the best technique was the overarm double bounce with sidespin. I worked out the maths, effectively, of what strategy gave me the best probability of success. My throw naturally faded right so I had to aim a bit left on the floor and let it spin back right. The bounce is necessary because the ball has to enter the cup at as high an angle as possible, because we want the ball to hit the base of the cup before it hits the back. If it hits the back of the cup the cup will just fall over from the momentum of the ball (this happened a few times) but if it hits the base first it’s got a better chance of staying in.
And eventually it did.
I stayed there for an hour, failing the same shot over and over because I had to make it. I had to. And by the end, when no one was around, I wasn’t trying for the competition, or the praise of getting it in. I was doing it for me. To prove a point.
It frustrates me that I can do something as trivial, and pointless as that for an hour with such concentration, but can I sit down and write, or do homework, or study, with as much determination and commitment as I gave to throwing a ping pong ball into a plastic cup?
The thing that kept me going was that because I’d started, I had to finish. I couldn’t leave it incomplete. That’s what kept me going writing my first novel, I had to finish it. To prove to myself, not anyone else, that I could do it. And I did that too.
And it’s like with this blog. Before New Years Day I posted now and then, but now I’ve made the resolution to post every day in 2015, I have to keep going until I’ve finished. That’s why NaNoWriMo worked so well for me last year, I had a deadline, and a book to finish. And I did it.
My problem is finding the motivation to get started. Once I talk myself into sitting down for a writing session, I love it, and I do it, and I get 5,000 words done without thinking about it. But it’s getting to that starting point that’s hard. And it’s a hell of a lot harder than just saying “Let’s see if I can get this ball into this cup from way over here.”
A lot harder.
Until tomorrow, finishing something is easy, it’s getting started that’s the hard bit.