Due to circumstances beyond my control, for the first time in my adult life I haven’t been able to write every day. Now it’s more like once a week. Not writing is absolutely killing me…It really feels like a part of me – a vital part – is missing.
This quote from Shoeless Joe in Field of Dreams makes me think that he probably felt the same way I do right now:
“Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I’ve heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I’d wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet… The thrill of the grass…”
Though this was a fiction quote from a movie, it describes so well exactly what it’s like to have a true passion – a purpose – in life and what it feels like when it’s taken away.
“Man, I did love this game. I’d have played for food money. It was the game… The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?…It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I’d play for nothing…”
I would write for nothing. I DO write for nothing and sometimes I fear that I always will. But that’s okay. Passion – true passion – isn’t about making tons of money or being famous or having fans. It’s about doing what you love. But passion doesn’t pay the bills. The harsh truth is that if doing what you love doesn’t pay the bills, you have to find something that does. And, like it or not, sometimes that has to take priority, especially when you have a family to support.
The news isn’t all bad. If you’re truly serious about doing what you love, you find a way to do it no matter what. I know I always do. I don’t have the luxury of waiting until the time is “right” to get my writing done. I can’t wait until I have a clean desk, a fresh notebook, new pens, and some quiet time to write. I scribble notes while I’m on the treadmill (and usually end up pushing buttons and speeding the machine up until it almost kills me…) I jot down character notes when I’m at stoplights in the car. I write when I’m tired and don’t feel like it because sometimes that’s the only time I get a chance. But I do write. I get it done.
Another way I’ve always found to get writing work done is when I’m walking outside for exercise. I listen to music that matches what I’m writing and I’m always amazed at what I come up with. There’s something about adding music and movement that really helps me get into the minds of my characters. When I’m writing a novel, I get into character as deeply as any actor gets into a role. That is, for me, one of coolest parts about writing and probably why I like writing upbeat stuff that combines humor and heart. I feel like I live what my characters live and feel what they feel, which is why I don’t like writing heavy dramatic stuff.
It’s not by chance that a quote from Field of Dreams touches me so much. I am a huge baseball fan. I’m working on my fourth novel – and two out of four of my books are baseball novels. The one I’m writing now is a baseball book for kids. My other baseball book was NOT for kids…Written in the first person of an MLB player, it would be rated R for language alone. Plus, you know, there’s other stuff…
My passion for baseball is, in many ways, similar to my passion for writing. I’m not sure that it’s really anything that I can explain. I don’t know that I could find the right words to express the emotions that I feel for baseball or for my writing. All I can tell you is that when I step onto a ballfield or go to a ballpark – that first glimpse I get can literally take my breath away. I’m hoping that I am able, in some way, to translate that kind of passion into my novels, whether they are baseball-related or not.
My current novel is about a woman who is passionate about baseball (like me) but who hates kids (unlike me. No matter how nuts my own kids make me, I still love them…). Her name is Konnie MacDonald (Konnie Mac…for you baseball fans out there). She has an anger management problem, which lands her in trouble with the law in the town where she lives. In Joyville, it’s against the law to have temper tantrums. She gets busted by the law for the last time (three strikes, if you will…) and her punishment comes to down this : Go to jail or coach the local Little League team as community service. She chooses jail….then comes to her senses and grudgingly agrees to coach the little rugrats.
I want to include as many baseball inside jokes as humanly possible in this book, so I’ve been doing lots of baseball reading and watching baseball movies. I’ve even gotten a book of Little League rules and I’ve read a book by a Little League coach so my writing can be as legit as possible. I have to confess, though, that I’ve never even SEEN a Little League game. Every year when the flyer comes home from school, I ask my kids if they want to play baseball/softball. The answer is always “Nah”. Then I sigh inwardly and put the flyer in the recycle bin. I would LOVE if my kids would share my love of baseball, but I won’t force it. My daughter has zero interest in the game (she takes after her father in this regard..) but my son will watch it from time to time with me. When the flyer came home this year, I was halfway to the recycle bin after asking “Do you want to play baseball this year?” when my son said “Sure!”
I froze in my tracks.
“Sure,” Noah said again.
No…frigging….way. The one year when I happen to be writing a book about a Little League team and my son wants to play. Every practice would be like on-the-field research for me. I could mentally record every minute of the practice for use in my book, not to mention the fact that I would get to see my son play the game I love.
I asked him repeatedly if he was sure. He kept saying yes. As excited as I was, I played it cool and made him wait a few days before I signed anything. He’s the type of kid who will do stuff just to make me happy and not necessarily because he wants to. He’s a sweet kid, but I want him to play because he wants to. After a few days, he still wanted to play. I signed the papers and got him a pair of cleats and a glove.
And I also bought my first glove so I could practice with him.
As much as I love the game, I’ve never actually played. Now every Monday and Wednesday, I get to go to baseball practice with my son. It’s not technically Little League – it’s Pony League, but close enough. It still takes my breath away every time I walk onto the field.
I get to channel my main character, Konnie, as I watch the kids play ball. The really cool thing is that the kids’ baseball coach is eager to get the parents involved and encourages us to bring our gloves and get out on the field and help. He even refers to us as “coaches”.
I just have to be careful not to glare at the kids as I’m channeling my character, since Konnie hates the kids at first. She has no patience with the kids because they know nothing about baseball. They try to their best and are very enthusiastic but they don’t even know the rules at first (getting LOTS of first-hand research on that end…believe me. It’s a riot.) She constantly complains that they “have no respect for the game”. At the end, as she watches them play, she realizes how much the kids love baseball. She comes to understand that loving the game IS respecting the game.
I may not have anywhere near as much time to write as I want, but I’ll get this novel done one way or another. I’ll write on napkins if I have to. I have a notes program in my phone so I’m always able to write down ideas. I’ll go for long walks and I’ll stand on the ball field. I’ll work hard and play hard and writing will always, always be a part of my life no matter what.