As a writer, I am always looking for ways to flex my metaphorical muscles. In reading about the Red Sox team and their unlikely (by their previous year’s record) 2013 World Series championship, I couldn’t help notice some of the parallels between the actions and reactions of our boys of summer and my current vocational aspiration.
You’re probably already thinking, baseball and writing—that’s a bit of a stretch, particularly since baseball is a team sport and writing is so solitary. But the commentators tell us otherwise—I’m sure that a Wordle search of articles on the team would produce in giant letters the words “narrative” and “story” about the team that went from worst in 2012 to first in 2013. In any case, is there any place we see the use of far-fetched metaphors more often than in sports? So bear with me, whether or not you follow baseball (and I confess I am somewhat of a fair weather fan myself), as I turn the tables and share my fourteen Red Sox metaphors for writing success.
1. Play with your strengths. Even if everyone tells you that you’ll make your killing if you write a dystopian steampunk young adult novel, do what you do best so that you can love it till the end.
2. Keep on swinging till you get it right. You will strike out with some scenes, some characters. Revise, revise.
3. A stolen base belongs to the stealer. Find your inspiration where you will and make it your own (but no plagiarizing, please!)
4. Support your teammates, and seek support yourself. As much time as we spend alone, our fellow writers and writing community can make a difference—providing feedback, a shoulder to cry on, a word of encouragement.
5. Work to improve yourself in Spring training. Classes, retreats, conferences any time of year can give a needed boost, some new ideas, resources, and contacts.
6. A good coach is one who “has your back” and believes in you but doesn’t hold back with constructive critique. If your current coach isn’t working for you, find another. Those of us who went through Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program know all about good coaches. Especially if you are a rookie, it’s helpful to have someone beside your mother who can tell you what you need to hear in a way you can hear it.
7. Seal the deal with a good closer. No matter how great the rest of the book is, that ending needs to be earned.
8. Ignore the naysayers, including your own nagging inner voice. Sure, the odds that any one of us will get published are far worse than the odds of a particular team winning the World Series at some point. But we need to find ways to believe in ourselves and our talent.
9. You don’t have to hit the ball out of the park to succeed. As a writer, you don’t have to complete a NaNoWriMo writing marathon every month. Write regularly, even if it’s just a sentence at a time.
10. Your past does not have to define your future—you can come back after a colossal failure. Regroup! So you shopped your first novel around and got nowhere; put it on the shelf and try a new idea.
11. It’s a slow game and an even slower series. Be prepared to stick with your project, with all its ups and downs.
12. Don’t take yourself too seriously—be playful and find joy in your work. Maybe you can’t or don’t want to grow a beard, but writing shouldn’t be all drudgery.
13. It’s not just about winning but the fact that you got out there and did your best. It would be great to write a best seller, but just finishing a novel is a victory in itself.
14. If you do manage to win the big one, celebrate with gusto. Crack out the champagne (but don’t waste the $100,000 bottles!). Invite your fans. Bring out the duckboats! Hold a parade! We all promise to be there.