Last month I accidentally went to a baseball game. My friend gave me two tickets she couldn’t use, so I grabbed my most baseball game-ish friend – you know, the one who’s sporty enough to call it a “ball game” – and off we went.
Who knew it would win me over within minutes. The crack of the bat, the popcorn-scented air, the promise of cold beer delivered right to you by the yellow-shirted BEER GUY. Summer air, but with a hint of rain and fall, kids jumping up and down maniacally to draw the cameras, Sweet Caroline filling the air between innings. Darkness descending, the home team getting that final out as the crowd roars, fireworks sizzling up from the field and dancing along the backstop.
Any true baseball fan has read at least one of W. P. Kinsella’s books. His writing sings with love of the game. In Butterfly Winter, he writes that “properly played, baseball consisted of mathematics, geometry, art, philosophy, ballet, and carnival, all intertwined like the mystical colors in a rainbow.” And when explaining why he loves writing about baseball, he has said it’s because “on a true baseball field, the foul lines diverge forever, eventually taking in most, or all of the universe.”
Does this sound familiar? You’re about to sit down to write, and you’re nervous, feeling a soul-deep dread. Doubts fly through your head.
Maybe I don’t know how to do this. Maybe I won’t be able to think of any words. Maybe that perfect sentence I thought of when I was brushing my teeth is gone from my mind forever, and I’ll never think of anything as good. Maybe I won’t be able to keep writing during the whole 5 minute freewriting exercise, even though the writing teacher said we could just write “blah blah blahbeddy blah” if we run out of words.
In Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland speak of every creator’s ultimate fear – “the fear that your fate is in your own hands, but that your hands are weak.” Why do we doubt ourselves so much? How bad could it be if we just tried?
Bayles and Orland also reassure: “Art is made by ordinary people.” Of course you’ll be able to think of words. Of course you can write another beautiful sentence if you forget the tooth-brushing one. Writing is endless. It’s new and different every day. The power is in the trying.
To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork… Your job is to learn to work on your work.
– Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, David Bayles and Ted Orland