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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Writing and Baseball

I am going to talk about baseball (this is a warning), but I'm planning to swing it around to writing, so hang in there, okay?

I love baseball and look forward to spring training with barely leashed anticipation. Not only does it mean the end of a long, cold Minnesota winter is coming, it also means baseball and the regular season will be commencing. And inevitably, every April and May some team gets off to a slow start. That's when someone connected with that team will inevitably say: "It's a long season; we have a lot of baseball left to play."

Okay, yeah, it's a 162 game season, but my theory is that it's easier to win the game in April when there's no pressure than it is to win the game at the end of September with your team's playoff chance on the line. Or when you have to hope that another team loses, which takes your destiny out of your hands.

Let's use the 2009 Minnesota Twins as an example. With 26 games to go in the season, they were 7 out of first place. In that situation, the first-place team (Detroit Tigers) should have been pretty secure in winning the division championship and the Twins would have been out, but at the same time Detroit started on a losing streak, the Twins went on a winning streak. (They won 17 of their last 21 games.) But without Detroit losing all those games, the Twins would have wound up exactly nowhere. Instead, they ended up in a tie with the Tigers after 162 games and had to play a 163rd game as a tiebreaker.

Suddenly, winning one more game in April or May when there was no pressure looks like a good idea, yes?

The tiebreaker went into extra innings, both teams see-sawing back and forth for the lead several times before the Twins finally won it in the bottom of the 12th. They enter the playoff series without a rest, without time to set their pitching rotation, without a chance to rest some of their best players and get them ready for the postseason. It puts them at a distinct disadvantage against the Yankees, the first team to clinch their division.

Someone was quoted as saying, "You can't win the World Series in April, but you can lose it." Or something like that. (I tried searching, but couldn't come up with the exact quote or who said it. :-()

So how does writing tie into all of this?

I see a lot of people who want to write put it off. I'm too busy right now, but I'll do it later. The thing is that there's never time to write--you have to make the time. If it takes scheduling an appointment with yourself and then keeping it, that's what you do. Mark Twain said something about people having more regrets about what they didn't do at the ends of their lives than about what they did do.

It's easy to say, well, I'm only in my 20s now, I've got plenty of time to write. I'm only in my 30s now, I have plenty of time to write. I'm only in my 40s now, I have plenty of time to write. Only at some point, you run out of time. Or an unexpected illness or accident cuts the time short. The truth of the matter is that like a 162 game baseball season, our time on Earth is finite and our wins in our 20s are every bit as important as our wins in our 60s.

Maybe at 25, the win is just learning some new aspect of craft or finishing the first book, the one that's so bad, no one will ever see it. No, it's not published, but writing is a learning process and few people write first books that are ready to see the light of day. But like in baseball, this win counts as much in your path to publishing as the wins later on, like when you final in a writing contest or get an agent. It just doesn't seem as monumental in April as it does when your season comes down to one game. It is, though. It is.

Um, okay, so this isn't the strongest analogy/comparison ever. Sorry. I just wanted to talk about baseball. ;-)