Last Friday night I was fried—brain numb done. It had been a long week, and everything that needed to be done was done except for one thing: my next blog post. For five months, I’d stayed one week ahead on all of my post writing. Now I was behind and out of time and ideas. So I turned off my computer, went to my recliner, and did what I usually do to relax my mind: watch a baseball game. Since childhood, baseball has been my soothing elixir. Stress oozes from me within minutes of the sight of the field, the sound of the fans, and even the banter of the announcers.
Still, the fact that I had to get a blog post written for the weekend’s post and Monday email send niggled at the back of my mind. I mentally debated the pros and cons of just letting it go, missing a week for the first time since I started my blog. I’m a disciplined writer, and such a breach of discipline seemed unfathomable.
Then baseball came to my rescue. In the course of only two innings, I came up with these three writing lessons from our national pastime. As I jotted them down on my notepad, I thought they were a pretty good dose of encouragement and insight. I hope you agree.
1. Take your swings
In baseball, a player is considered a great hitter if his batting average is over .300—meaning that he gets a base hit at least thirty percent of the time. Since each batter goes to the plate about four to five times per game, he is considered great even if he strikes out or makes an out on all but one or two of his at-bats.
When you are submitting your work as a freelance writer or promoting your book through your author platform, you’ll make an out most of the time. “No” is a common response for a writer seeking to be published or for an author marketing a book. But every “yes” you receive by getting published or making a book sale will be a hit; some will feel like a home run. So keep swinging and you will get your percentage of successes.
2. Take in your surroundings
Since I’ve lived in Arizona since childhood, I adopted the Arizona Diamondbacks as my team when they began play in 1998. But my favorite place to watch a baseball game is Dodger Stadium. I first visited the ballpark as a sophomore in high school and returned in 2014 for a game with my colleague and die-hard Dodger fan Dave Ficere. Its picturesque location in Chavez Ravine in the Elysian Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, the hilly, tree-lined view beyond the outfield pavilions to the distant San Gabriel Mountains, and its unique terraced-earthworks parking lot built behind the main stands that allows fans to park at the same level of their seats stimulate the senses and make it my ideal location to view a baseball game.
As a writer, your surroundings should inform your work. Engaging nature through a trip to the park or walk through the neighborhood will bring life to your poetic or inspirational writing, while a shopping mall or university campus where you can people watch and eavesdrop will give you great ideas for character development, dialogue, and settings for your novel or creative non-fiction writing. Get out there, use your senses, and revel in how it feeds your writing.
3. Take your time
Baseball does not have a game clock. As weather permits, the teams will play full innings until somebody wins. Despite attempts to speed up the game (such as mandating a maximum two-and-a-half minute break between innings and a thirty second time limit for visits to the mound), baseball is played at a leisurely pace. Most nine inning games last about three hours.
As a writer, you need to take your time on every project. The tyranny of deadlines (I have up to four individual writing or editing deadlines per day) will tempt you to cut corners and not allow yourself proper time for multiple drafts, reviews, and self-editing. That’s why it’s vital to organize your time expertly and press through unexpected distractions to do your very best work every time.
I’ll share more about time management next week. For now, I think I’ll post this baby, grab a Guinness, and then take in ESPN’s Sunday night game, thumb through my baseball cards, and hope Paul Goldschmidt gets a hit or two. Golly, that sounds relaxing.
I want to hear from you!
What writing lessons have you learned from a favorite sport or hobby?