More about the weekend

I’ve graded fourteen of those short papers, and they have gone fairly quickly.  I’m taking a few minutes to write this post, and then I’ll grade the remaining six and go to bed.  I had to go to an NLNRU barbecue at the home of the cranky colleague of this post, but the Snork Maiden hung out at my sister’s and Stubb met me at the bbq after his performance.  My hands smell of ham.  I should wash them again before I go back to the papers.

Somewhere in the week I found time to read Moneyball and to realize that while it’s about baseball, it was probably a bestseller not because it’s about America’s pastime, but for the same reason that Malcolm Gladwell’s books keep being bestsellers: it tells you that some of the things everyone thinks are true, or important, actually aren’t, while some other things that no one thinks are very important actually are.  And your thinking is shaken up in a very pleasurable way.  Or, if it’s not so pleasurable, in a way that seems meaningful.  Or else you say, “I’ve always thought that, and I was right!”

When Michael Lewis is describing Billy Beane’s time in the minor leagues, he reports Beane’s impressions of Lenny Dykstra, who was drafted by the Mets the same year as Beane, but later, and as a less impressive prospect.  They are watching the opposing team’s pitcher come to the mound, and Dykstra doesn’t recognize him.  He asks Beane who the asshole is, and Beane says, awed, that it’s Steve Carlton, and rattles off some impressive facts on Carlton.  Dykstra isn’t fazed:  “I’ll stick him.”

The point about Lenny, at least to Billy, was clear: Lenny didn’t let his mind screw him up.  The physical gifts required to play pro ball were, in some ways, less extraordinary than the mental ones.  Only a psychological freak could approach a 100-mph fastball aimed not all that far from his head with total confidence.  “Lenny was so perfectly designed, emotionally, to play the game of baseball,” said Billy.  “He was able to instantly forget any failure and draw strength from every success.  He had no concept of failure.  And he had no idea of where he was.  And I was the opposite.”

This really resonated with me because as a writer, I’ve always cared deeply about doing good work, and I’ve done a lot of it, but I’ve always taken my failures to heart, and I’ve always questioned my successes, whether I really earned them.  (Even to say “I’ve done good work” without a qualifier takes a bitten lip.)  My fear of being the asshole who doesn’t know she isn’t any good, and keeps sending her work to magazines for which it isn’t good enough, and keeps applying for prizes she doesn’t deserve, has frequently kept me from sending my work to magazines and sending applications to prizes.  This even after I racked up some good publications and national-level prizes and fellowships.

Take now, for example: I need to take some work that’s been rejected by magazines A, B, and C, and send it to magazines B, C, and A, respectively.  I know you have to keep knocking on the doors, that the second or third time they see your work, they may start to recognize it and to like it.  I just haven’t made myself do it. I have to send some work to another magazine that was suggested by a writer I talked with this summer.  And I have to write a follow-up to this editor I’ve been in touch with.  All three of these things require a little time and a little psychological resilience.  A little bit of Lenny Dykstra.*

Not even that much!  I don’t have to look these people in the eye.  And they aren’t throwing anything at my head!

*Circa 1985.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Sounds BUSY!

    You almost make me want to read Moneyball, but I’m tired of the whole “baseball stands for America” thing (you make it sound like it doesn’t actually do that, though, so maybe).


  2. Posted by meansomething on October 7, 2011 at 6:30 am

    It doesn’t really, and it is a fun book. Michael Lewis annoys me sometimes, but not so much in this book. Maybe once or twice.


  3. […] in October, I wrote about needing to put a little more Lenny Dykstra into my attitude about writing and publication. I’ve always cared deeply about doing good work, and I’ve done a […]


  4. […] decided that I needed to start acting like I know I’m fabulous, kind of along the lines of Lenny Dykstra, but, as Bardiac pointed out, without the getting arrested […]


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