The ramblings and musings of author and musician Geoffrey Young Haney.
Much more coherent and loveable fare from his wife, Michelle.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Don't Take Your Eyes Off The Ball

What's the major goal for most writers?

Publish a book, of course.

But there's a pot of gold at the end the rainbow that is publishing. Its gaining fans, making money, selling J.K. numbers, signing the movie deal, approving the Happy Meal toy tie-in, retiring at 40 a millionaire.

Let's be honest, we've all had these daydreams. Many of us won't reach those pinnacles of fame. But in today's digital world, many of us can publish a novel, and make money, and gain fans, and have our stories heard. This is a very groovy thing.

But it all starts before the book is published. First you have to write it and learn to write it well.

To go all sports analogy up in this b, earlier this week the Miami Heat lost the NBA finals to an underdog Dallas Mavericks team. Of course, Heat superstar and perpetual media sideshow LeBron James was heavily scrutinized for his performance during the series, especially in the final quarter of each game when, frankly, his numbers were dismal at best.

So what happened to James and the Heat? Why couldn't they win the game?

LeBron has made it no secret that his one and only goal is to win an NBA championship. Yet he can't seem to close the deal. Is he not talented enough? Not a chance. Is he on a bad team? Absolutely not. So what's the deal? To win championships, you have to win games. To win games, you have to hit shots. To hit shots, you have to be focused on the act of the shot, not the end result of good shooting.

Allow me to switch things over to a sport much closer to my heart. I recall way back in the day when I played football, one of my coaches shared with me some good advice. I played defense, mainly cornerback. (For those of you who don't know, that's the player that runs with the receiver and tries to break up a potential pass play.) Once during a game I had a perfect read on the ball and went up to intercept it. That puppy was mine, but at the last second I glanced down the field. I saw before me wide open real estate. With the end zone looming in my vision and 6 points already on the scoreboard in my head, I lost the briefest moment of concentration on the ball and subsequently dropped it. It was in my grasp, and I dropped it. No interception, no TD, no victory lap.

When I got off the field after our defensive series, the couch knew exactly what had happened. It happens all the time. I had put my eyes on the PRIZE and took my eyes off the BALL. He said to me, "that was a good play, but it could've been better. You can't score the touchdown until you catch the ball."

This might be what LeBron James is experiencing. Can he truly have the mental fortitude necessary to win big games and take big shots when his mind seems so all-consumed with wearing that championship ring? He talks only about how bad he wants it and makes excuses when he doesn't get it. He can't be the leader he is supposed to be because his head's not in the game. He can't be relied on in the 4th quarter because he's already thinking about the win.

Our goals of publication can suffer in the same way. If we think too much of the publication, too much of the potential rewards and the potential fans and the potential money (even a small amount,) we can lose sight of that most important step: writing the book. Catching the ball. This is the difference between the haves and have-nots. Those that can do the work, those that can finish the play, are the ones who finish the book and get it out into the world. Those that can't, no matter how insanely talented they are, are left to dream and makes excuses.

I don't want to make excuses anymore. In today's digital world releasing a piece of work is as simple as clicking a few buttons. You have to do solid work for it to be a LASTING piece of actual art, and you'll probably have to log a ton of hours to achieve that. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying simply GETTING something out there and in front of people is a breeze. And yet I struggle with doing the work. In my mind, sometimes, I'm already in the winner's circle and I have yet to catch the ball.

The LeBron in me can look down on that insanely God-awful song on YouTube or that e-book with a hideous cover written by a clueless-in-the-ways-of-the-internet author and say "why is that out there? Why that trash and not my masterpiece? Why them and not me?" and get so wrapped up that petty game of haves and have-nots. But it has to be recognized that they at least took the shot and made it, sloppy as it was. For better or worse, their work is available to the masses. And that's my goal, for people to see (and hopefully actually enjoy) my work.

It's time to keep my eye on the ball. As the great Wayne Gretzky said, "you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." So do the hard part - control the puck, skate down the ice, and take the shot. Getting the goal, the basket, the touchdown - that's just the result of solid planning and solid work. If you practice the steps hard enough, the scoring becomes easy. And once you're winning games - reaching those goals - the championship rings will pile up.

But it all starts with keeping your eye on the ball.

1 comment:

Elly Zupko said...

What a great way to think about this business. The opportunity is there now, and we only have to take it. I recently got a rejection from an agent that sealed the deal for me, and I realize I'm tired of doing something every day that drains my energy (submitting queries and getting rejected). Instead I'm going to focus my energy on publishing myself. I get to make the choices; I get to reap the rewards. The only reason I'm not published is because I haven't done it myself.

Thanks for this inspiring post.