Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Gotta Have Heart

Our Seattle Mariners started their baseball season with two wins, then lost seven games in a row, and fell behind 7-0 in their next game. Fans and sportswriters agreed - might as well call off the season. This team is going nowhere, certainly not to the playoffs. We're looking at a summer of pain and frustration.

But I remember the best baseball season ever, 1951. My New York Giants lost eleven games in a row out of the gate, and started the year 2-12. Things looked so bad, they called up a young outfielder named Willie Mays. After 20 at-bats, Willie had one hit, a batting average of .050. On August 11, the Giants were thirteen games behind the hated Brooklyn Dodgers, and Chuck Dressen, the Dodgers' manager told reporters, "The Giants is dead."

Not quite. The Jints ran off a sixteen-game win streak, caught the Dodgers during the last weekend of the regular season, then won the pennant in a playoff, when Bobby Thomson hit the most famous home run in the history of the game. That team had heart. Miles and miles and miles of heart.

What's that got to do with writing? Writers gotta have heart, too. So many ink-slingers become instant successes only following years of frustration, having doggedly refused to give up even when everything and everyone seemed to be telling them that would be the reasonable move.

After some thirty years of trying and failing to write a novel and get it published, I left my day job to go at book-writing full time. Three years of scribbling produced a novel and twenty-odd rejection slips. Then, a writer-friend volunteered to give my book a once-over. He told me my voice was great - for nonfiction - and suggested I rewrite the book "as if you're telling someone a story, for crying out loud." I listened to my batting coach, spent a half-year adjusting my stance, then hit it out of the park. The first publisher who saw the reworked book bought it, and it became THE MUSIC BOX MURDERS, my first published mystery novel. My eighth, A PERILOUS CONCEPTION, will come out this December. That's twelve years in the majors for me, and if I've never made an All-Star team, it's OK. I just love to play the game.

And oh yeah. The Mariners scored one run in the seventh inning, five in the eighth, and two more in the ninth to win that game. No, they probably won't make it to the postseason, but all right. I'll cheer them on through the summer anyway. They've got heart.


Mizmak said...

I started writing novels in my early 20s, spent 30 years racking up rejections and near-misses and once I even got tagged out on a slide to home plate, but eventually I got up, dusted myself off, and found a publisher. Persistence is definitely the key, along with solid batting practice.

Also, the Mariners currently have a better record than the Red Sox!

-Alexandra MacKenzie

Larry said...

Way to score, Alexandra. You've got heart!