This article was originally written and posted in June 2016. As the 2022 baseball season begins, I thought I would dig this out of the archives. There are some minor edits, but the observations and sentiments are the same.
I might be a writer by day, but by night, I’m an avid baseball fan. I am often inspired and fascinated by the game–the strategizing by the coaches, the gravity-defying catches in the outfield, the clutch hitting in the late innings, the dramatic grand slam home run that makes fans go wild. While we may see the glamorous side of the game, it’s the hard work and training behind the scenes that can make the difference between a championship team and one that misses the playoffs. It all takes practice, and with more practice and training, the better a team can become.
Just like in writing.
It takes lots of practice to improve your story telling skills. Baseball has a lot to teach us about developing a writing routine. When a team tries to score runs, for example, it follows a general principle: Get them on, get them over, then get them in. In other words, get a runner on base, move him over to scoring position, and then bring him home. Any individual who struggles to maintain a writing practice can apply these basic principles. Here’s how.
Step 1. Get them on.
In baseball, you can’t score runs unless a player reaches base. It doesn’t matter how he gets there – a walk, base hit or hit by pitch. Without runners on base, the chances of scoring are slim.
The same holds true in writing. You’ll never complete a manuscript unless you start putting words down on the page. It doesn’t matter how you get the words down. They can be bullet points, writing prompts or freewriting. Use whatever technique works to get your imagination flowing. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect; you can always edit it later. The point is to “get on base” with whatever technique works for you.
Step 2. Get them over.
In baseball, once a player gets on base, his teammates must try to move him over into scoring position, or if they’re lucky, all the way home. That means putting the ball into play, either with a base hit, a walk, a deep fly ball or a bunt. Any of these moves will push the runner over at least one more base and put him into scoring position.
In writing, once you have your initial story ideas jotted down, you need to fine tune your manuscript. This editing phase allows you to strategize your next move in the story. Maybe you need to remove a character, add scenes or cut dialogue in order to make your manuscript sing. Just as it may take several players and pitches to move the base runner over into scoring position, your manuscript may have to go through several editing passes to make it publishable.
Step 3. Get them in.
In this phase, a runner at second or third base needs to be driven home to score. Once a player is at third base, his teammates need to find a way to bring him home. There are different ways this can happen–a base hit, deep fly ball, or better yet, a home run.
Your final editing pass can help you bring your story to completion – and bring it home to victory. This is where you check for spelling, tighten the writing, and double check all the details. Perhaps one or two trustworthy friends can review your manuscript and provide feedback to help you improve your story, much like the third-base coach who directs runners on base.
Success comes when the runner crosses home plate, or when you finish your writing project. The more runs you score – the more stories you finish writing – the better your chances of winning the game by getting published.
Just like in baseball, hard work, patience and perseverance pays dividends, and you can savor your triumph in the same way a team enjoys its victories. But those celebrations are usually short lived. As any athlete can tell you, there’s another game the next day. That means there’s more work to do to prepare for it.
As you complete more stories, savor and appreciate your success for the moment. Remember, there’s still work to do. A little bit of practice every day will pay off for you in the end.