Last Friday I got a call from an old college friend who had an extra ticket for that night’s pre-season baseball game at Dodger Stadium. It was the Dodgers vs. the Brewers. I’m a big baseball fan, but not necessarily a fan of the Dodgers. (I’m more an Angels fan.) But I do enjoy going to a game, and it was going to be a great opportunity for my friend and I to catch up. So, of course, I say yes.
In the bottom of the first inning, Manny Ramirez comes to bat. Now you may not be a baseball fan, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Manny Ramirez. He was the guy who made a huge stink to be traded from the Red Sox last summer that they finally sent him to the Dodgers. And no matter what you think of him, he also happens to be a helluva hitter.
Back to the game…
On the third or forth pitch to Manny, he takes a swing and hits a line drive that is definitely going into the stands. How do I know this? Because as I watched the ball, I realized it was going to hit near our seats. Awesome, I though. Foul balls always tend to fall far from wherever I’m sitting. (I should say this wasn’t one of those pop up foul balls that leisurely arc into the seats. This was a line drive, a ball travelling at high speed and heading on an almost straight line for it’s final destination.)
So as this ball, this line drive that’s screaming toward our section, got closer, I realized something new…not only was it heading toward my section, it was going to hit close. Wait…hold on…not close…not even in the seat next to me. That ball, off the bat of Manny Ramirez, is heading straight for my…
The sting was UNBELIEVABLE. Son of a–
If I hadn’t thrown my hand out, the ball would have slammed into my chest.
Did I catch it?
No. After hitting my right palm just below my index and ring finger, it bounced off into the empty seat in front of us. Thankfully my friend was able to grab it before anyone else could.
Suddenly, I was very popular. The fans around us suddenly talked to us like we were old friends. The usher checked if I was all right. (First we said a free beer would make me feel better. She laughed. But then I started thinking I could use an ice pack.) Next thing I knew there were paramedics and security and everything. Whoa.
(It was probably a good think I got the ice pack. My hand was definitely sore and the next day there was a bruise.)
So what does this all have to do with writing? Two things, actually.
First: It wasn’t until we were leaving the game and my hand was starting to feel better that it crossed my mind I could have easily broken my fingers or my hand. Which would have meant that I wouldn’t have been able to use it to type. Which would have meant that the May 1st deadline which is staring down at me on my next book would be in SERIOUS jeopardy. Which would have meant pushing other things back that I didn’t want to push back. Double whoa!
Thankfully that didn’t happen.
Second: (And this, ultimately was the point I was trying to make, meager as it is) Getting published takes a lot of hard work, sweat, perseverance, and often seemingly endless trips to the mailbox to send of queries. But there’s also another part, a part that’s often has nothing to do with us. And that is, for lack of a better word, luck.
Hitting the right desk at the right time.
While we can’t always create our luck, we can, to a certain extent, help control it. By this I mean being ready when it comes our way.
In my Manny story, if I’d been sitting in the upper deck, that ball would have never gotten to me, not as a line drive anyway. If I’d chosen not to go, it wouldn’t have hit me either. But the seats my friend got were in prime foul ball territory. That didn’t guarantee we’d have a ball hit to us. But if we kept coming game after game, if we were persistent, there would be a good chance a ball would at least land in our area. And let’s say we worked hard, had spent years playing catch, and were actually pretty good at it, so good that we even took our glove with us to games. Let’s say Manny hit that ball at me again, only this time I caught it.
Luck that it would come in my direction, but a conscious decision to put myself in a place where it might happen, and hard work that I allowed me to catch it.
So if you’re out there and still hoping to be published, just keep working and getting better. You never know when luck might come your way, but when it does, you want to be at your best.
Okay…maybe I’m stretching the analogy here a bit. But it’s valid, and, come on, I couldn’t waste such a great story, right?
All right, brushes with fame stories…let’s have ‘em!
Today’s fun video…KILL BILL Vol. 1 & 2 told hilariously in 1 minute:
Funny story, Brett. It’s just like a writer to regard almost breaking his hand as luck. 😉
This sentence is so true I wanted to pull it out: “Hitting the right desk at the right time.”
That’s why I tell new writers over and over that the right agent makes ALL the difference. You need to do your homework and sign with an agent who will PUT you on the right desks.
Brush with fame stories? I would, but the good ones are too private.
I do have to say that hands-down the sexiest celebrity I ever met was Jack Lemmon. Oh, could he make you feel like the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life. Unbelievable charisma.
Not a writing analogy but I’ve got a “hit” story. When my now-husband and I went on one of our first dates, he took me to a hockey game. (how romantic!) And I told/warned him that if a puck came my way, he’d have to protect me. Luck, fate, destiny … a puck came flying at me … to protect himeself HE MOVED IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!! It hit me in the shoulder, much where the old cowbow heroes would say it was only a flesh wound. The arena people came down to see if I was okay, yeah yeah, just a flesh wound, I had a coat on, etc. But he. moved. in. the. other. direction. Have I gotten over this traumatic turning point in our relationship? Yeah, sure. 🙂 It’s fun to torture him with it every once in a blue moon.
I was there, too! Section 224. My dad was prepared to catch a foul ball with his baseball cap.
The best story I had heard recently was screenwriter Iris Yamashita’s sharing of being in the right place at the right time. She had no optioned screenplays, but had written one that had won a small regional award–good enough for her to snag an agent at ICM. So when producer Paul Haggis was searching for a writer for a “companion piece” to Clint Eastwood’s “Flag of Our Fathers,” he went to his agent at ICM first. And lo and behold, there was a referral, interview, and a match. “Letters from Iwojima” was written four months later. If Iris hadn’t worked hard to get her early screenplays in good shape and win an award, she wouldn’t have had this opportunity.
Brett, the thing I like best about this post is that here you are, sweating a May 1 deadline, and you don’t hesitate to go to the ball game with your friend. That’s what I call a balanced life.
Brett, I know how you feel. Literally. Last year I had a line drive foul ball off of Albert Puhols bat hit the palm of my right hand. It actually left seam marks from the stitching in my hand.
Had I not blocked it, it would have hit my dear wife in the face.
I feel your pain. In my case, we were in the first row of the middle deck and the ball glanced off my fingertips down to the walkway below and knocked an $8 beer off the tray of a woman who was walking. She screamed at me like it was my fault. Some kid jumped out and ran off with the ball.
I have Louise to thank for landing on the right desk at the right time. We first met at the Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference, and had a good time smoking outside and all that good stuff. Her wonderful first novel came out a year before mine did, but I ended up with her editor, Kristen, because Louise told her to ask my agent for my manuscript when he was first starting to shop it around to editors. Kristen bought it. How cool is that? And how even cooler is Louise for having suggested me? SO COOL!
You know, it’s funny. When I heard this story at Literary Orange on Saturday morning, Brett said he had to leap out of his chair, sprout wings and fly across the room, hand extended, to prevent a poor little girl from getting hit in the face with the ball.
And I actually believed him…
Okay, okay. I’m lying. What else is new?
Good post and good point, buddy.
Enjoyed your post. I had to think about Dr. John’s song, Right Place, Wrong Time. Don’t know why.