I was listening to Boomer & Carton on WFAN (New York area sports talk radio for those outside my universe) yesterday morning on my horrendous drive to work and they were discussing the sorry state of the Mets. (Always glad I’m a Yankee fan.) On just about every show, there is just one itty-bitty item that sets off Boomer Esiason that you would never expect, and he gets all heated and passionate, and then they move onto the next thing. Yesterday, at about 6:15am, Boomer went on a tirade against the Mets pitcher Oliver Perez accusing him of not having the mental gumption to get through a competitive game. He said that Perez just didn’t have the competitive spirit–the backbone of sports–that major league baseball requires to be successful.
While I was zoning out and waiting for the talking heads to get to a real baseball team with prospects for a successful future (e.g., the Yankees), I perked up when I heard Boomer articulate his thoughts on this pitcher. I couldn’t help but get drawn in to what was not only a message from one very successful former professional athlete to a struggling pro, but the debate about Perez’s fundamental talent versus his competitive spirit, and psychological make-up of someone facing enormous public pressure.
And so there it is, my proposed baseball analogy that you all know and love about me. Some will have stopped reading already, but I do contend that perhaps we should be having a parallel debate about how come some writers just don’t succeed despite their talent. It’s been very easy lately to paint those writers as fundamentally flawed if they can’t market themselves and leverage technology–independent or not. While that is true to a certain extent, the notion of competitive spirit is something we don’t hear much about in the independent writing community. Many of us are indeed talented, many are not, and yet the success rate doesn’t necessarily reflect those proportions respectively.
So what does having the gumption to bear enormous pain (rejections), adversity (bad reviews), dealing with a weak link in the team (lack of publishing support), and come out of it a better athlete (writer) mean? It means coming out fighting and focused on prevailing. Setting your objective to W-I-N and never faltering is how professional athletes continue on despite injuries, losing streaks, and media-bashing. So then we writers have a few lessons to learn about channeling our mental energy when preparing to launch our work into the world. When I used to train as a boxer, my trainer would keep telling me, “Don’t be afraid of failure, you have to go all the way.” I didn’t understand what he was saying. I only learned what it meant when I met people who indeed never took a step ahead because they were petrified of failing, so they stayed still. Static.
Well, fuck, man, I have a day job, car payments, debt, school loans, and most importantly, two amazing beautiful little kids to support. I am implicitly half-assing my writing “career”, and so what do I expect–a 5-picture deal from MGM to adapt my stories to the screen? Hell no. Ain’t going to happen. Writing is not the lottery.
It’s not that I don’t have the competitive gumption. I’m not even giving myself the opportunity to effectively compete because of the obstacles I’ve set up for myself. If I really, REALLY wanted to be a widely-read author, I’d quit my dayjob, sell the house, learn to love eating cat food, take my kids out of their school and put them in the public system along with the meth addicts here in my town, and write 10 hours a day. For 10 years. And eat cat food. And go out every weekend to force myself into readings EVERYFUCKINGWHERE. I’d be writing up and down everywhere for every magazine, journal, and internetz blog I could get access to.
I’m not doing that. Are you?