Thursday, October 14, 2010

When the pressure is on....

Who are you? When the going gets tough… do you get going? When you find yourself in the “moment” do you own it like Eminem suggests we do because we only get one shot?

As many who follow the blog may know, I’m a sports fan. Football, golf and most recently baseball. I really got into the Phillies (which was pretty easy since they’re good right now) and went so far as to buy a season ticket plan. I spent the summer eating hot dogs, drinking beer, cheering and booing and singing about peanuts and cracker jacks.

It was a blast.

Philadelphia made it to the playoffs and as part of my package I got to go to the first playoff game. The pitcher in that game - Roy Halladay - has been pitching in the major league for years. He’s won the best pitcher award (Cy Young) multiple times but he has always played for a losing team. The Phillies picked him up this off-season in a trade.

This was his first trip to the post season.

Speculation was crazy leading into this game. How would he handle the pressure? Would he perform at the same level? Or would those nasty little choke cherries that can effect premier athletes come in to play?

This man is the best at what he does, has been for years, and for the first time he was going to have to prove it on a very large stage.

I sat and watched him throw a no-hitter. Not one batter hit the ball to get on base. Only one batter out of the 28 he faced, walked. This was only the second time in the post season that this had been done EVER in 100+ year history of the game.

So there he was, in “the moment” and he was nearly perfect.

I’m jealous as hell. I’m writing this “big” book. Slogging my way through chapters, focusing on so many different elements of it, and I’m wondering if I’m even coming close to it being good. This is my “moment”. The one shot. The chance to maybe branch out and hit it big. I’m feeling the pressure big time. Only I can’t tell if I’m a “man” or a “mouse.”

Anyway, just another day in the life of an insecure writer. But I did enjoy seeing Roy pitch that game. Because it reminded me what hard work, dedication and absolute focus on what you’re doing can - not will (there are so many other factors) - but can get you.


Kwana said...

Great post. Thanks!

Bev Katz Rosenbaum said...

I'm fascinated by sports psychology (wife of a sports writer). And I think you're so right--the pressures are very similar. But I know you can do it!

Karen W said...

Interesting comparison. However, I don't think any one book is your "only" moment. We continue to grow as writers and get better with each book. So, if one book doesn't do it, maybe the next. That pitcher didn't get good at once. He had to practice and hone his skills.

That said - I've got to throw this out there - GO RANGERS!

Sinead M said...

Great post, Stephanie. We at least have time, and the benefits of polishing to get our work right. Athletes get one shot, and I cannot imagine how nervous they would be.
I thought about this a lot during the winter oylmpics and how these amazing athletes go out, with the world's weight of expectations on their shoulders, and somehow don't let their nervousness derail them and what kind of mental clarity that would take.

It's incomprehensible to me.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm fascinated as well by atheletes who can do this. Especially in the Olympics when a COUNTRY is looking at you. I remember the Australian runner. She was of aboriginal descent. She was favored in this one race. They said the entire country stopped what they were doing to watch her run.

One race. All it would have taken was one misstep... but of course she won.

And I do agree Karen that as writers we get a bunch of chances. But the window is getting smaller. I will have put 6 months into this book to have maybe another 4? 5? editors look and decide on it. That's what's freaking me out.

Anonymous said...

I'm going through the same thing right now - pressuring myself to write the big book I've been aspiring to. So I call on one of the best Don Draper lines of Mad Men this season: I have 2 choices: (1) I could die of boredom or (2) I could holster up my guns (figuratively speaking, of course). And we get to make this choice with each book we set out to write.

Eileen said...

I'm so in your shoes! I was just hit (smacked, really) by an idea that feels like a really big book. I'm both terrified and exhilarated at the prospect of writing it. Am I good enough to show what I think is important? Even if I am, will I be able to convince my editor to publish it? If she does, will marketing push it? Will it get the attention that I want it to deserve?

At the ECWC conference a few weeks ago, Rosemary Clement-Moore (who is way too adorable) told me that the book you're afraid to write should be the book you write since you actually care about getting it right.

I'm going for it (at least at this early proposal stage). We'll see what it brings.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Finishing this last mms on that last day of rough draft when I totally wanted to just be done and watch tv and drink beer - I literally imagined myself as a long distance runner - I all but poured water on my head. It's embarrassing that I just admitted that.

I love the Roy Halliday story - especially since you got him from the beleagured Blue Jays. And I agree with Rosemary Clemont Moore who does sound lovely - you've got to write the hard books. But I think every book is hard.

Maureen McGowan said...

I've been feeling that way, too, Steph. Often I'll say what Karen said -- that no one books is your "only" moment. Because that's true. Sometimes we do put too much pressure on these things and freak ourselves out.

But on the other hand, if we don't treat a book like it's "the book" "the chance" then do we pour enough of our guts into it?

I'd liken some of my pushes to the end on books to moments in sports I've had, too. It's a very fitting analogy.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Long distance running! Yes.
I feel like I'm hitting that "wall". I'm at about mile 19 which is an accomplishment... but it's those next 7 miles looming ahead that are killing me.

All this running... I should be thinner.

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