|A picture of a pencil? In an article about writing?|
The author must really know their stuff!
It's Okay to Enjoy Doing Something Occasionally
You know what we need? We need a sports metaphor. Everyone loves sports metaphors. Dr. House uses them all the time to help diagnose complex medical problems, even though that seems like it might not be the best way to talk to other doctors about medicine, and even though Dr. House doesn't really seem to enjoy any sports other than monster trucks. But, Dr. Cameron is the only one who doesn't love them, and she always says so in a real girly way so that women watching the show know they're in good company and won't change the channel....or something.
But I'm going to assume that even if you're a demographically researched girly girl of the type Dr. Cameron panders to, or if you're just a person of either gender who happens to be a bit ambivalent about sports (kinda like me) you will at least be able to follow this metaphor.
|Totally just like amyloidosis.|
And mitocardial infarctions.
Growing up where I did, I would probably pick soccer for this sports metaphor myself, but given the auspicious timing of spring training starting today for several teams and the fact that it is only old school baseball fans who ever pronounce my last name correctly (due to a distant relative named Harry), I will go with baseball instead. Don't worry, my non-sportsly writer peeps. You don't need to know what an error or an RBI is to be able to follow this metaphor.
You just need to be aware of how many people play baseball...for fun.
Sure, you can turn on the television pretty much any time when the ground in a typical northern state isn't three feet deep in snow and see some kind of game--a pre-season, post-season, or regular season kind of game. There are about 750 major league baseball players. But there are also minor league baseball players. College teams. High school teams. Independent leagues. Little leagues. Jr. Highschool Teams. T-ball teams. Intramural teams. Company teams. Neighborhood teams. And of course there are pick-up games. I probably played a thousand such pick-up games where the big oak was first base and that sprinkler was second when I was living in Calabasas and illegally using the local park to do shit like play*. Millions upon millions of people play baseball for fun and enjoyment without ever wondering when their efforts will lead to some kind of payout.
Only a very, very few do it professionally.
*(No, seriously, there are signs all over Calabasas lake park [and really, all over Calabasas itself] that say that you can't be there if you aren't a part of the housing association, which my parents and their pleb condo-renting selves weren't. I played there anyway. I was a rebel raging against the machine. All of us from the complex were. We learned fake adresses up the hill that we knew the security guards would never check. Yep, I was a couple of short years from buying a leather jacket and beating up Socs.)
And yet, despite the fame and fortune that is denied the vast, vast majority of people who ever pick up a baseball bat or glove, despite the fact that they know they will never be pitching for the Dodgers or playing 1st Base for the Red Sox, and despite the fact that if they ever had childhood fantasies of being the next Hank Aaron or Alex Rodriguez, they let those fantasies go as adults... Despite all these things, they still keep playing. Many keep interested, keep following, keep studying, and keep practicing even. But mostly they keep playing.
They play because it's fun. They play for love of the game. They play because it brings them pleasure to play, even if their baseball "career" isn't going anywhere.
And that's okay. Really.
All these players don't have to play baseball all the time to enjoy baseball. They don't have to train constantly to improve or be better than they were last year. They can even be rockstars of their little community league. Sure, they might need to come to grips with the fact that Sparky Anderson probably isn't going to approach them after their company picnic pick up game and say "HOLY FUCKING FLAMING SHIT BALLS, son! That was the most epic display of short-stoping I've ever seen. Ever. You make The Natural look like some hick with a tennis ball and a stick. I need you on The Red's starting line up, RIGHT THE FUCK NOW!" but this doesn't mean they can't simply enjoy the game.
Such as it is with writing.
In case you haven't already begun to pierce the veil of this incredibly difficult metaphor, let me spell it out. Those baseball players that you see when you turn on TV, they pretty much eat, drink, and breathe baseball. They dream about baseball. When they take a dump, it looks like little baseballs--you can even see the stitching. They have a couple of months off (where they usually keep working out) and then the training starts. Hours of training a day; five, six, even seven days a week; watching movies of opponents or themselves when they're not training; games that require at least seven hours of commitment (from showing up three hours early until they change and go home) and occasionally even double headers. It's a wonder they don't use baseball metaphors when they have sex. Like calling a screaming simultaneous orgasm a "grand slam" or something.
In their case, thinking about baseball during sex is actually the opposite of helpful. ~rimshot~
The same thing is probably true for most writers who an average person would recognize right off the bat. (See what I did there? Off the bat! Never mind...) Anyone like Rowling or King or Salinger or Christie is probably writing seven days a week for hours a day. When they're not writing, they're reading. And when they're not writing or reading, they're probably thinking about doing one or the other.
It's really okay not to be these people. Really. You don't have to write all the time. You can write only when you enjoy it and it brings you pleasure. Really.
Sure, you might have to give up the idea of doing the talk show circuit and retiring at 40 off the proceeds of your megabestseller-turned-bestselling-movie-of-all-time. The thing about successful writers is that they usually give 110%, but they would give 110% whether or not they ever succeeded. They love writing. (Or in some cases are compelled by it despite horrible, horrible hatred.) But you.....you don't necessarily have to give this much.
Not everyone who spends a Sunday afternoon playing a fun game of baseball needs to be training for 60 hours a week to do so.
You can be a hobbyist writer. It doesn't make you any less "serious" or "real." (At most, it might make you less paid.) You can fiddle with some characters you love for a couple of hours on the weekends. You can be an occasional blogger. You can be someone who only ever works on the one novel or who writes one short story a year. There's nothing wrong with being this kind of writer. You can write only as much as it gives you pleasure to do so. You can write at the intensity of the company league (that plays ten games a year against other local companies) or even just someone who loves a pick up game. You can be "good" in these circles of writing without necessarily needing to be thinking about publication or quitting your day job. You can just write when the spirit moves you to write and when it feels awesome. Is there really any other reason to be creating art?
You also don't need to be troubled by professional writers giving out advice to write for hours a day, every day, any more than you would be troubled if Joe Mauer said: "If you're serious about being a professional baseball player, you have to practice 12 hours a day for at least three years." That advice is not directed at you. That's not what you want to get out of writing.
In fact, there's really no reason to write more than fulfills you personally. I super-mega-triple-pinkie swear. You aren't missing out on your unrealized mega-career if you don't push yourself way past where writing stops being fun and into the place where it's making you miserable. Most of the people who write all the timeconstantlyeverysecond aren't rich or famous. They don't have a house in the Hamptons or book signings with lines out the door. They aren't published, or if they are it is only a few times in modest venues. They scrape together just enough money from their day jobs to keep writing because they love it. They write so much because they like writing so much.
They--WE--are minor league, at best. We might be putting in the time and energy that dreaming of "the show" (what minor league players call the majors--because movies are always right about such things) is no longer an utterly implausible delusion of grandeur, but we're doing it because we love it, and it is the writing itself--not the hope for accolades of success--that keeps us going.
You know, this metaphor could work even better with golf....
Part IV- Live Free or Write Hard
Part IV- Live Free or Write Hard