My theatrical, artistic husband also happens to be a sports nerd. He knows more statistics about American football and cricket and baseball and basketball and soccer – and just about every other sport going – than most sports professionals. He also loves to use sports metaphors: on his students, on his casts – and on me. And although competitive sport is anathema to me, I do appreciate the wisdom that can be gleaned from the experience of athletes and their coaches and how that knowledge can be transferred to other elements of life – from parenting, to writing – to just living.
I’m always anxious about result. Hugh’s always focused on process. The life of a novelist invites daily bouts of self-doubt: it comes with the job and is worth it, in the end, though sometimes it’s tough. When I’m struggling with this, when I worry about whether a book is good enough or how it’s landing with a publisher and then a reader and a critic, or whether a new idea is going to be any good, I think back to one of Hugh’s sayings, gleaned from baseball I believe: ‘Focus on where the bat hits the ball, not on where the ball lands.’
I gather that, technically, this is helpful: it makes you hit the ball better. So, in writing terms, if you focus on the writing, the day to day, sentence by sentence, scene by scene work of getting the story down, you’re more likely to make something good – to bat well – than if you look past what you’re doing at what the result might be (where the ball will land). It’s all about process. Focus on the process and not only will the final product be better but, perhaps more importantly, you will have lead a richer, more authentic life along the way.
So, today, as I find myself in the midst of edits and also between projects, as I worry about how one of my books will land and whether a new idea will take off, I’m trying to pay a bit of this wisdom: to keep my eye on where the bat hits the ball.
I hope it helps you too, in whatever you’re undertaking today and tomorrow.