So, BF and I played softball this weekend. Co-ed, slow-pitch softball, but softball nonetheless. And the other teams picked on me. You see, my strength is at the plate. I can swing the hell out of a bat and smash the stuffing out of a ball (hyperbole is also a strength of mine, by the way). Unfortunately, my skills in the field leave a little something to be desired.
My editorial eagle eyes are no help when a bright yellow ball hurtles in my direction. Any thoughts about stopping it go right out, well, into right field (where I’m standing) and I watch it whizz by me. I do have enough sense to run after it, but it’s too little, too late when I can hear everyone cheering on the runner who just scored a homer because my standing in right field is the equivalent of a black hole. Ball goes in, nothing comes out.
I know I suck. My team knows I suck. But I don’t let that stop me. I ask for help and I keep trying. I never stop chasing the ball.
But after a painful half-inning in right field, I get to earn my keep, so to speak (or at least earn my spot on the team). I get up to the plate, I wiggle my foot around in the dirt (pretending I know what I’m doing), bend my elbow, get in position, and wait for the pitcher to wind up (not really, it’s slow-pitch, remember), and I squint. Confidence oozes from my pores. And I dare him or her to throw me a good one. The ball comes my way, I keep my eyes on it (those editorial ones!), and swing like there’s no tomorrow. I connect, I run, and I’m safe. Almost every time (got on base seven out of eight at-bats). The difference? At the plate, I know what I’m doing. In the field? Not so much. And the same is true with writing (you knew I’d bring this full circle, right?).
I encourage writers to keep in mind that they don’t have to be good at everything. Say you’re great with pacing, but sometimes you forget to describe what your character looks like. That’s all right. Takes practice. Say your dialogue shines, but you forgot what happened in chapter three, so chapter nine is a little lacking in the clarity department. That’s OK, too. You’ll get there.
The trick is to never take your eye off the ball (see what I did there?). Figure out your weaknesses as well as your strengths. You can’t have one without the other. When I play softball, I don’t get to only do what I’m good at—I have to suffer through watching the ball fly by in the outfield so I get my chance to shine at the plate. I know I struggle so I get help. I listen to the advice and try to apply it when I’m out there praying no one hits the ball in my direction. So, as a writer, keep your eyes open, pay attention to what you do well and work on what you don’t. Doing so will lead to a home run every time. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.)