As you know, ahead of my wedding, every debt must be erased. I originally wrote this thinking I could send it to Stephen King (the famous author) personally, or at least reach one of his representatives. I discovered that this isn’t possible, as he’s guarded by 100-foot high iron walls LOL but that’s okay. I realized it was something I needed to write for myself, and perhaps it is of use to you as well.
My debt to Mr. King is two-fold. First, his book On Writing is the best guide ever written for aspiring authors. If you feel the call to write, but aren’t sure how to proceed, read this book! Secondly, I owe Mr. King a tip o’ the hat for being courageous enough to keep writing even after he got famous. You’d be surprised how many authors write one or two books, and then give into temptation and let ghost writers pen the rest of the books published under their name.
Thank you, Mr. King!
Note: if you don’t understand the sport of baseball, this probably won’t make much sense to you :P
Today, I want to address what happens in between a) when you get an awesome idea for a story, and b) the process of actually writing it down.
Strangely enough, the metaphor that has been coming in my mind is related to baseball. I know Mr. King is a big fan, as is my own father and his father as well (my grandpa), but me, not so much. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fine sport, and I’ve enjoyed a couple of very pleasant sunny afternoons at the baseball game with my dad, but it’s never called to me too much.
Nonetheless, here is my Extended Baseball Metaphor About Successfully Getting That Awesome Story Idea Down on Paper (and yes, I realize “paper” is now an archaic metaphor unto itself).
In my mind, the Muse, or God, or the Magic Elf that Lives in Your Typewriter, is the Pitcher and you, the writer, are the Batter. If you’re just starting out, you may not even see the Pitcher wind up and throw, in which case you’ll be blindsided by the Ball (the idea), and you’ll swing in a panic, and usually whiff and steeeeeeerike.
Maybe you even need to start at the most elementary level, the T-ball of writing, in which an idea is given to you in a class assignment or writing exercise from the back of a book. The Ball will sit there motionless, and you can practice swinging until you learn how to handle your bat.
But after a bit of practice, you’re ready for the real thing. Now you’ll see the Pitcher going into his wind-up. I know from my dad and grandfather that experienced Hitters can somehow “read” the Pitcher, and somehow intuit where the Ball is going to go BEFORE it is released.
So… if you’re an experienced and good Hitter, maybe when you see that Ball being released and coming at you at 90 miles an hour, time slows down, and your vision tunnels, and you’ve got a bit of “time” to adjust your swing, and your stance, and read the Ball as it flies through the air, and figure out if it’s a curveball, or a slider, or a sneaky-because-you-don’t-expect-it straight atya fastball.
But still, every baseball fan knows that even the BEST of Hitters still only gets a successful hit about a third of the time (which, footnote here, gosh what a crazy sport! seriously, no other sport depends on such a low percentage of hitting/striking/contacting the gorram ball LOL).
So let’s say you’re a good writer (Hitter) and you swing but miss completely because it’s a slider. No sweat! You watch the Ball hit the plate and relax, and shake off the tension, and get ready for the next pitch. Cool. But here comes the wind-up, and now you see it’s heading straight for the sweet spot and that’s when you know…. this is it. If you hit it right, it’ll be a home run, bam!
But the timing has to be split-second perfect, eh? And so here comes the Ball, and you can overthink it, or not think about it enough, and you’ll swing your hardest, and it’ll fly off foul – or worse, pop up high in the air, and Bob’s your uncle, you’re out.
No problem. Baseball is great because there’s ALWAYS another game, and always another chance at bat. So here comes your next turn in the box, and the Pitcher winds up, and here comes another fastball right down the middle. And you start to get really excited because this time you feel it, the mojo, the “juice”, the charmed feeling that the tumblers of the universe have all clicked into place and something amazing is about to be unlocked.
Uh oh, don’t choke! And as you begin to scribble frantically, writing the words down as they come, do NOT choke! One moment of hesitation and poof, the power goes out of your swing. Yeah, you made contact, and yeah, you got on base, but it’s just a measly single. Can’t win the game that way, slugger!
Or maybe you chicken out before you even make contact and awww, you little sissy, is that a friggin’ bunt? Come on, get this clown out of here! We need a real Hitter in here!
And after a billion strike outs, foul tips, bunts, lazy singles, a couple of decent doubles, and one or two triples, hey, it’s time to quit f—ing around. You know why? It’s late in the game and your team needs a run. The home crowd is on its feet. Excitement is in the air even before the Pitcher goes into his wind-up. It’s time to win this darn thing, so come on, Champ. We need a friggin home run!
Ahh, and here it comes, a big fat juicy Idea, coming at you tumbling in the air just as big as a basketball. Even a blind man could hit this one out of the park. And now you’ve got it, the pre-knowledge that yep, this is it, and Babe Ruth style you know exactly how you’re going to hit it, and where. CRRRRACK.
Ahhh… and there it goes, sailing up – up – up – a magnificent sight, dads rising to their feet, tears in their eyes as they now have an awesome gift for their son that they never see anymore since their ex-wife got married to that asshole lawyer, the crowd roaring with happiness… up – up – up and away it goes but… oh no, what’s that? At the last minute it bounces off the left field wall. Wah-wah, just a triple if you hustle, and maybe only a double if you were sitting there being lazy and expecting it to be a homer.
Ah well, no trouble. This is the Big Leagues, eh? You’re drawing your salary, no problem, but the fans are now calling up the AM radio stations wondering what’s wrong with you, hinting at a drinking problem, or a girlfriend problem, or saying all kinds of crazy crap that isn’t even true. Coach is even starting to get worried, as the owner is re-examining your contract to see if you’re too expensive to keep on the team. Yikes.
Becoming a rising star is awesome, but nothing sucks worse than flailing when everyone is counting on you. Put on your damn lucky stiff socks, pal, because now that everybody is losing faith in you, you’ve got to be the last damn person who still believes in yourself. Because if you don’t, you might as well just go and hit the showers.
Ah, but you’re pulling your weight, right? You’re getting on base a decent amount of time. Sure. But no kid is ever going to grow up with stars in his/her eyes while looking at your card, are they? Not for some journeyman slugger. Your name is in the statistic books but that’s it. You’re barely even the answer to a future trivia question.
Luckily, you’re still on the team, so the game ain’t over ’til it’s over. And now here is your chance. Bottom of the ninth, the championship game. Your teammates have done their part, stealing one base, and getting a few hits to load up the rest of the bases. Now it’s all up to you, Champ. The count is 3 and 2. No more excuses. No more bullshit. The pitch is coming, and you know it is, and either you walk tall now or you go home with your tail between your piss-stained Major League big-boy pants.
80 thousand fans in the stadium and yet there’s not even a single sound. You can hear a bug being zapped somewhere far up high in the arc lights. You smell the perspiration of the catcher behind you, and the rich iron stink of the dirt underneath your feet. The Pitcher unwinds and releases. Oh Mary mother of Jesus, it’s a fastball right down the middle. THIS IS IT.
Ahhh and this time you get it, you get EVERY word right, every comma, every paragraph, every indent, every plot line all tied up neat as a bow, and KABLAM goes the bat when it makes contact. And this time, folks, you don’t even need to look. Ten thousand jaws drop at the same time as the Ball heads into the stratosphere, not just a grand slam home run, but frigging out of the stadium itself, the Ball flying on to break some old codger’s bedroom window, waking him up from an uneasy dream about eating tins of Spam during the war.
The smile on your face is just barely there, but everyone can see you’re holding back a tidal wave of satisfaction as you earn that lazy jog around the bases, your teammates rushing off of the bench to mob you, the crowd going wild, people at home having epiphanies in front of their televisions, Coach’s grizzled red face slick with tears.
And when you ceremoniously touch one toe to the tip of home plate, and the news cameras rush up to you, battling each other to shove their microphones in your face, your only response is “Nah, ’tweren’t hardly nothing at all”.
BAJOOM – that’s how I think of writing :)