by Ron Estrada
When my son began his baseball career back when I was a long way from fifty, he played, like most kids these days, on a t-ball league. I, being a foolish young father who wanted to participate in all of my son’s activities (and my wife told me I had to) helped coach.
Ever been to a t-ball game? Any resemblance to actual baseball is purely coincidental.
A new t-baller will hit a line drive past the toes of several infielders, then he himself will race out to center field and retrieve the ball, to the wild cheering of both teams.
A new t-baller will turn to the first base coach and say, “Chase me to second base!” I refused. Not that I didn’t think it would be helpful, but I was vaguely aware of a rule against such a strategy.
A new t-baller hits the ball three feet, then run to third, then to first, then to the pitcher’s mound, where he and the picture will wrestle for ownership of the aforementioned ball.
T-ballers, my friends, know how to have fun.
Then they learn the rules.
Ever been to a little-league game of 12-13 year olds?
They throw their helmets when they strike out.
They spend hours every week perfecting their swing. Their pitching. Their stance in the batter’s box.
They don’t smile unless they win.
Baseball, somewhere between slapping a ball off a tee and puberty, stopped being fun.
Ever been to the desk of a first time novelist?
They write loads of backstory.
They tell instead of show.
They use passive verbs.
What’s up with that? Here’s what’s up: they’re in love. They’re in love with the cursor moving across the screen the way a t-baller is in love with bumblebees bouncing off dandelions.
A new writer is simply thrilled with the idea that she is actually writing a novel. Something few people will ever attempt and much, much fewer will be successful at. And when she gets to the end of the novel, like the t-baller, she could care less what the score is. In fact, she doesn’t even realize a score was being kept.
She will cry. She will call her critique partners who will share in her joy. She will pour a glass of wine to celebrate this great achievement for which she was not paid a penny and into which she invested hundreds of hours of time.
Today, this Saturday, the 6th of May, 2017, I am giving you permission to forget the rules. To write for fun. To show and not tell. Write a meandering tale about an Amish werewolf with a fascinating (and long) backstory who falls in love with fire jumper in Montana.
Will it ever get published? Probably not.
Will you have fun? I know I did.
And you will discover your first love again. This diversion into your newbie-ness will not stall your career. It will give it life.
You may never be the writer’s version of a major-league center-fielder, but darnit! This is your field today. These are your dandelions. The sun is shining and you don’t even know what the rules are.
Romp to your heart’s greatest joy.