September 26, 2008: For Better or Worse

I know part of the reason I had such a horrid headache yesterday was that I stayed up late Wednesday night, going to the baseball game, but I think it was compounded by staying up ridiculously late, watching the Sox celebrate clinching a spot in the playoffs. I couldn’t not watch.

Afterwards, I got to thinking about Justin Masterson, a rookie pitcher. I thought about how young he is, and how crazy this is — he already has a commercial. (It’s a little commercial for a local sporting goods chain, but still…) Then I realized he’s good enough to have been drafted and signed by the Red Sox, which means he’s a whole lot better than most of the kids he played Little League with.

The thing is, “better” for him is pretty cut and dried: if he gets more guys out, if he gives up fewer hits than the next guy, he’s a better pitcher. Some of it is the quality of the batters he faces and some of it is the quality of the umpires determining whether that pitch was a strike or a ball, but a lot of it is his skill.

As a writer, I don’t have that. It’s all judgment calls. Oh, grammar and spelling are factors; if I haven’t mastered those two, it’s impossible for m to be any good. (I can be a good writer if I willfully and knowledgeably break the rules of both — but I have to know them before I break them.)

But beyond that, there is no objective measure, no batter striking out on three swings, or getting a home run because I left one over the plate. It’s this one saying I’m good, or that one saying I’m not. I can and do believe in my own work, in the sense that I give it everything I have. But how it rates against the rest of the world? I’ll probably never know.

If you’re competitive — and I am — that’s kind of tough to deal with. I want to be the best, but there’ll always be someone who goes, “Meh” or even “Oh, yuck,” about my work. I won’t be able to point to stats to know how I succeeded. (Sales do not necessarily equate quality; I can’t look at low sales and immediately conclude I stink.)

There’s not a lot I can do about any of this, but figure out a way to come to terms with it. I will; I just don’t know how yet. I won’t be surprised if somehow, something sports-related helps me. I’ve learned a surprising amount from sports that helps me in my writing.

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