To excel at a sport, especially on the national collegiate or professional level, someone must be born with an innate athleticism. Same thing with writers—being able to imagine other worlds, come up with characters, and develop story ideas is something we’re born with. In baseball, like any other sport, in addition to having that natural talent, the players must spend years preparing: learning the nuances and rules of the game, conditioning themselves, practicing, playing, learning the “market” (how other teams play, what to expect), going out every game with a winning attitude, and learning how to be a gracious loser (though in professional sports, we’re losing this more and more each year).
As a writer, I have spent years preparing: from the basic fundamental of learning how to write, learning grammar, learning to type, to learning the rules of good writing; conditioning myself and practicing by writing, writing, writing, as well as by working with critique partners and learning how to edit and revise; studying the market—determining which publishers to target and what they’re looking for; approaching each writing session, editor/agent pitch, or contest entry with a positive, “winning” attitude; and learning how to graciously accept rejection from said editors/agents/contests.
Baseball, obviously, is a TEAM sport. Each player has his individual position to play, but each must also support the team as a whole. This mirrors the importance of fellowship with other writers which, for me, is represented by my local writing group, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, as well as several online groups I participate in. When a player hits a three-run homer with two outs, the team is there to meet him at the plate with cheers and congratulations. When the next batter up pops out to center field, while the team is disappointed, there should be no condemnation, only encouragement and offers to help him improve his batting average. In a writing group, when one of our members makes a sale or wins a contest, my role as a teammate is to be there at “home plate” waiting to give her a high-five, to congratulate her, and to publicly applaud her. When the next one comes back with a rejection, my role as a teammate is to offer support, encouragement, and offer any assistance such as critiquing, editing, etc., that is within my expertise to provide.
An individual player is like a writer, too. When he stands at the plate waiting for the pitch, he knows why he’s there. When I sit down at my computer to write, I know why I’m there. The batter waits for the pitch, not knowing whether it’s going to be a fast ball, a breaking ball, or a curve ball. I wait for inspiration to strike, not knowing from where it will come. The ball is pitched. One of four things happens to the baseball player: He doesn’t swing and the pitch is “ball.” He doesn’t swing and the pitch is a “strike.” He swings and either misses the ball for a “strike” or connects for a foul ball. Or he swings and connects with the ball for a hit. When ideas/inspiration come my way, similar things can happen. I can let it go right by me because it’s not something that really works. I can let it go right by me and realize I’ve missed something important that I might not ever be able to get back. I can start writing the idea only to discover it’s not going anywhere, or that it’s going somewhere off track. Or I can start writing and make a great connection. How far I “hit” it depends on how well I’ve prepared myself. And, even if it’s a fabulous piece of work, it may still lead to an “out”—a rejection.
Once a batter hits a homerun, he’s not told to go sit on the bench and relax and enjoy the rest of the game. In the next inning, he must still play his field position as well as go up to bat again. His next at-bat may be another hit or it may be a strike-out. But he doesn’t quit just because he can’t follow up a homerun with another homerun. He keeps working, redoubles his efforts to get that batting average up. Just because I’m a published author doesn’t mean I can sit back and rest on my laurels. I have to keep writing, keep improving, keep studying, keep practicing to remain in the “game.”
So, PLAY BALL!
Kaye Dacus is the author of the Brides of Bonneterre series for Barbour Publishing and The Ransome Trilogy for Harvest House Publishers. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and is a former Vice President and long-time member of American Christian Fiction Writers. A Louisiana native, she now calls Nashville, Tennessee, home. She is currently celebrating the release of her two latest titles: Menu for Romance and Ransome’s Honor. To learn more about Kaye and her books, visit her online at kayedacus.com.