Our family loves baseball. We like to watch Major League games, and my 13-year-old son played in a local spring league this year.
His team didn’t win a single game.
Still, we cheered him on and celebrated small victories where we could: a walk to get on base; a decent play to make an out at first. We simply had to reevaluate our definition of success.
Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Writing is much the same. Whether you dream of winning a championship trophy or a writing New York Times bestseller, failure to achieve a lofty—and perhaps unlikely—goal does not mean that the time you spend working toward it is wasted.
In our heads, we understand this. It makes sense. But our hearts are not always on board. I can’t tell you how many times I sat behind the dugout in my folding chair, praying every time my son was up to bat that he would get a hit. “Please,” I would whisper, “just let him get a hit. Just one little hit.” The one time he did hit the ball this year, it was a solid double witnessed by his grandpa, because my husband and I were out of town.
Most of the time I managed to chill out and just enjoy watching my son play. But a few times I remember getting so angry. Why couldn’t I see him get just one hit? Why couldn’t his team win just one game? Was it really too much to ask to see him experience that little bit of success?
When the season ended I asked my son if he wanted to play again next year. He sort of shrugged and said that as long as he didn’t get stuck in the outfield every game, he’d probably want to play.
Amazing, right? The losses didn’t deprive him of the will to live. The lack of hits didn’t crush his soul. He figured, okay, I’ll get back out there next year and try again. Why not?
Too often during my career I’ve been caught in the endless logic loop of, “Why can’t I just get a partial request from an agent, or a full? That’s all I want. Don’t I at least deserve that little bit of success?” And then, “I have an agent, but I still can’t sell a book. Why can’t I sell just one little book?” And then, “Why isn’t my book selling a zillion copies? Why can’t I sell a second book?”
It’s exhausting. It’s a waste of energy and focus. And it never, ever ends unless you consciously remove yourself from the game.
You, as a writer—as a human—have the power to shape your own definition of success, and it need not conform to anyone else’s expectations. Sitting down and putting words on the page is a win. Finishing a first draft is a win. Finding joy or enlightenment or peace through a creative outlet? Win, win, win.
Life is not a competition.
Baseball (in my humble opinion) is about the beauty and simplicity of the game.
Writing, in all its forms, is about the effort to be more tomorrow than you are today. Also simple; also beautiful. Your goals may drive you, but they do not define you.
Your failures may hurt you, but they do not define you.
You define you. It helps to have people who love you cheering from the sidelines. But only you can decide to step out onto that field…
Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at www.christinehayesbooks.com.