Remember that scene in A League of Their Own when Geena Davis is about to quit playing baseball to go live with her husband whose just returned from the war? She tells Tom Hanks that reason she's leaving is that "it just got too hard," ostensibly talking about the game itself, but in reality she means the expectations on her to be the shining star of the entire women's baseball league. Hanks's response to Geena's statement is one of my all-time favorite lines ever spoken on the silver screen (or on my about-to-take-a-crap, hundred-year-old TV).
"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great".
The Wife and I were watching that movie on TV when that scene rolled around. I got all excited, felt the goosebumps start to push up, and my butt sliding to the edge of the sofa. It might as well have been the closing seconds of a Game 7 deep in the playoffs. As Hanks uttered the lines, his resentment for Geena's decision to leave the game that had been his whole life spewing forth in every word, that little voice in my head started to whisper again. You know the little voice I mean, it's the one that got Thomas Magnum through all those cases as a private investigator.
My voice told me that I didn't need to totally take time off from writing. You see, I'm not only a husband, a father of a 1-year old son, an administrator at a middle school and a football coach. I'm also an aspiring novelist. I've got two novels finished, one a terrorism thriller and the other a young adult adventure story. I have the sequel to the YA story, the sequel to the terrorism thriller, and three other books at least a third of the way finished.
The two novels that I have finished have been sent out for beta readings several times. The terrorism thriller is too short and needs lots of work (read: more work than all the king's horses, men, women, serfs, and jesters could do on Humpty Dumpty). The YA adventure book has been called "outstanding," "terrific," and "awesome." As yet, no agent has even sniffed at it.
This would be the part that those "in the biz" call the hook of this initial blog post. I told everyone that I was taking time off from my writing because life had gotten too complicated. It's May, after all, and football is in the middle of spring training, which means I am gone from 7:45 AM until about 8:15 PM everyday. Also, I am not taking time away from Family Time. So, I said that I was going to put writing on hold. Sounds good enough; so good, I almost convinced myself it was true.
See, I don't have time... right now. But May will be over, and I will once again have my nights free to look over the shoulders of my characters to see what they've been doing in my absence. Only, finishing these three novels, or maybe fixing the broken one, seems to be too hard right now. The outlines I've done don't look inspired, the stories themselves don't look original... hell, the idea itself of being a writer seems fruitless with the dour news coming out of every single agent and industry blog in the world. I feel like Geena Davis saying "It just got to be too hard."
And even I have a motive that underlies the "lack of time, the industry sucks" veneer, and it's one that if they were honest, every writer screams from their Magnum, PI inside voice: Is this all worth it? Am I just wasting my time? Are people lying to me just to be nice? Do I have any talent at this?
To myself and anyone else going through these doubts in the midst of a struggling industry, bouts with a lack of self confidence, and just general malaise... take heart, my friends. In the genius words of Jimmy Doogan, that master strategist:
It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.