Friday, July 2, 2010

On baseball, writing, and life

The partner-in-crime is borderline obsessed with baseball (the borderline is just my way of being nice, he's full on crazy), and while I lovingly tolerate the 70 some-odd games I'm subjected to during baseball season, my post last week about statistics got me thinking. I'm not sure how I feel about him loving a game that encourages under-achievement.

Take their batting averages, for instance. When someone says they have a "3-0-0" batting average, they're not talking about 300. They're talking about POINT three zero zero. Which, statistically, equals 30%. Which means they hit 30% of the balls that come their way. And that's a good batting average. You're getting into the A-Rod/Big Papi/Pujols range with that one.

But think about it. What other job on earth would reward 30% achievement?

"Scott, you found over 30% of the safety violations in our nuclear plant. We're giving you a promotion."
"Jane, you've landed 30% of your commercial flights successfully. We'd like to double your salary."
"Bob, 30% of your students passed this year, we're making you Teacher of the Year!"

This leads rather nicely into writing as a profession. Because as soon as I thought, "What kind of profession would reward such low achievement levels?" I had my answer. Writing. We're all crazy enough to keep at it even though the statistics are against us. And I'm not just talking about the statistics of getting an agent or getting published. I'm talking about the statistics of sell through, statistics on a second/third/tenth book, the statistics of making a living as a writer.

The bald truth is, the odds are MAJORLY against us. Spell check doesn't want to give me majorly, but it's clearly never seen Clueless. And yet, with the deck stacked against us, we're all here. Yeah, we know the odds. Yeah, we've seen the numbers. Yeah, we've gotten the rejection letters.

But we're Still. Here.

Which leads me to life. And more specifically, the human condition. Because let's face it, life ain't easy. The more we progress as a society the more existential our struggles become. It's not enough to have a roof over our heads, it has to be a nice one. It's not enough to have food on the table, it has to be organic and rare and maybe imported. We set the bar high, my friends. But it's helped us achieve great things as a species. And some of the best and most successful books have risen out of the ashes of an author decimated by struggles life threw at him or her.

Which is why, odds or no odds or against all odds, we keep trying. Baseball players keep stepping up to the plate and writers keep stepping up to the keyboard. We know the numbers, we  know the odds, we know the likelihood, but we're all still here, typing and swinging away. Dreaming and hoping and revising and crying a little and triumphing. Because we all know what greatness can be achieved by beating life at it's own game.

Baseball, obviously.

1 comment:

Sandy Shin said...

Thank you, this is such a great and inspiring post!