I attacked my to-be-read pile of articles over the weekend and spent some time with the July issue of Harper’s. That magazine’s “Memoir” section typically is one of my favorites, and this issue featured a first-person piece by author Mark Edmundson about his experience playing Pee Wee League baseball in 1960.
Afraid to swing the bat, Edmundson didn’t want to screw up, so he became the team’s base-on-balls leader, a dubious distinction (especially among 7-year-olds). Then came the end of the season, when the author decided to swing the bat in the final game and drove a single up the middle.
I won’t ruin what happened next, but Edmundson’s perspective on that base hit 55 years ago, connecting a moment in time — via glorious scene-setting, by the way — with the art and craft of writing hit me like a 95-mph curveball:
I’ve managed to be invisible all season long and then, at the last moment, to flash like a tiny comet. Perfect. I’ve been anonymous and I’ve been in the forefront. … I’m having it both ways.
And isn’t that what writing is all about, being absent and gobbling up attention at the same time? By the time you’ve written the essay or the book and it’s in the reader’s hand, you’re long gone. You can’t be seen, but you are, to at least that one reader, all in all. You take over his or her consciousness.
Writing a book, an article or a blog post is a solitary act — just like standing at the plate, waiting for the pitch and hoping for the best. You can let the ball zoom by. Or you can swing.
Put another way, don’t be afraid of your own words. Take the time to write something you’re proud of and then get it out there for consumption. Whether one person reads what you wrote (consider that a single) or it goes viral (a grand slam), at least you’ve put the ball in play. And that will make stepping up to the plate a little easier next time.