My son has had a tortured season of baseball. He loves the game. Loves it. But he wasn’t playing the game as well as he wanted to play it. He’d approach home plate, bat in hand, and hear all of the voices–real and remembered–around him. Stand like this. Hold the bat like that. No, like that. Move back from the plate. Strike! The rules and the voices had become like an anesthetic to his innate understanding of the game, his love of it and, yes, his talent. I told him weeks ago that he needed to forget all of that–bag the rules–and just try to hit the ball, trust himself. He balked at that; he had to follow the rules or he’d be in trouble, and he wouldn’t hit the ball if he didn’t–duh, Mom.
It wasn’t my peptalk, or my husband’s, that finally got through to him. It was something he did all on his own: walked up to the plate, just stood–stood where it felt right–blocked out the voices, went for it–high ball or not–and…whack! A solid hit out into left field. Later, one into centerfield, and then a hit that landed him a triple and brought home two runs.
Several games after this milestone, he’s one of the team’s best and most reliable hitters.
Most of us who are aspiring authors have plenty of voices around us: critique partners and other friends, spouses and other family, and sometimes even agents or editors. These voices can escalate when we’re close to something good, because these are people who want us to do well, offering their very best advice to help us round the bases of publishing.
But there comes a time when you have to recognize that it’s you and the bat, standing quite alone at home plate, facing the pitch.
As much as we might cling to opinions, remember them all–this is what the character should be doing here, this is how this thread could play out, this is how this scene could be rewritten, this is what should be cut away, no, no, keep that, submit it as it is, aren’t you published yet?–these voices can, if you’re focused on them when it comes time to make your swing, anesthetize your instincts.
Stop listening for them. Stop listening to them. Just face the ball and trust that you know what to do. Trust your love of your work. Trust your knowledge of the craft. Trust your grip and your stance. Trust that you will know best how to make the connection. And then–whack!
For the unpublished, homestretch writing takes guts, but it’s important if you’re ever to reach a new level. It’s the moment you remember how lonely writing can be, but it can come just before a big cheer from the sidelines.
Write on, all!