My favorite piece that I wrote this year was “Baseball has its day in the son,” the story of how my 10-year-old developed a new interest in following baseball in unlikely circumstances.
“A modest thing, but thine own,” as Vin Scully liked to say. I felt I adapted a uniquely personal moment into a story that could be meaningful to total strangers, while keeping the true feeling intact.
Aside from the happy memories of the moment itself, it was a story that energized me, making me believe that a non-fiction, non-baseball book I had been sketching, one that I alluded to 10 months ago, could actually work, not in the sense of being any kind of bestseller, but simply in the hopes of being something to someone.
As much as the Dodgers are part of my soul, they have never been the only part. Amid all the pleasure I enjoyed from the publication of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, I have been wanting to stretch myself as a writer. The piece about my son, along with several others like it in my history at Dodger Thoughts that revolved around life more than baseball, convinced me that I wasn’t crazy to write a sustained narrative devoted to what was right in front of me.
Less than a month later, those plans were on the shelf.
The more I worked on the book project, the less I wanted it centered in my personal universe. It started to seem a bit claustrophobic. Quite possibly, that was a hurdle I was meant to push through, rather than run around. But sometime in August, I started to wonder seriously about writing a novel.
This wasn’t a new dream. Half my life ago, in the early 1990s, I had left the sportswriting world for the express purpose of becoming a novelist. I began graduate school at Georgetown in the summer of 1992 with a project already in progress, and intended to finish it as a Master’s thesis by the next summer. Then, as I believe I mentioned here many years ago, I took an undergraduate screenwriting elective, and it was like something lit up in my brain. I converted my would-be novel into a screenplay, and started off on an entirely new journey.
New journeys, it turned out, would be my thing. Dodger Thoughts became another example.
In the past 25 years, it rarely occurred to me to try write a novel again, with any attempt I made quickly abandoned, but all of a sudden it felt right. It felt exciting. The only problem, really, was that I hadn’t seriously tried writing fiction — especially creating my own characters — in forever.
I got around to asking my brother for his thoughts, laying out my concerns. My favorite novels tend to be works that, in my wildest dreams, I can’t fathom having the ability to write myself. My exact words remain in my head.
“I’m afraid it’s going to suck,” I said.
He didn’t actually dispute that, but he did have an important reply.
“That’s not a reason not to write it,” he said, and that resonated.
Even if have to write the first novel just to be able to get it out of my system and get onto my next, I’m now on board.
The idea I’m currently working on has its roots in something I was exploring quite some time ago, but I’ve changed everything except the initial premise. I took that and built upon it from scratch. In many ways, as I kind of expected, I don’t know what I’m doing. But learning is part of the process.
Also, I’m not going at it in a regimented way. I’m going truly as the spirit moves me. Early on, I gave myself 10 years to finish the book — an outlandish amount of time, but not entirely out of thin air (I went nine years between 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die and Brothers in Arms). Most importantly, while the long deadline obviously dims the imperative to produce, it also reduces the pressure to be great immediately.
As the final day of 2018 dawns, I have an outline for the novel, but it’s at once got too much and not enough, so I keep sculpting and chiseling. I also wrote a first chapter that has a great chance of not making the novel’s first draft, let alone the final one, but I don’t hate it. And that’s something, because hating something I’ve written is often what stops me dead.
I’m at a point in my life where time is precious. My kids are growing up ridiculously fast, there’s a lot I’d like to be doing, and I really think often about making my spare time when I’m not at work count. And yet, I’m willing to invest my time in this boondoggle. I realized again this year that writing isn’t only my profession, it’s also my hobby. I don’t wake up every day and start throwing words down, but no matter how much time passes, I keep coming back to it.
Maybe by this time next year, I’ll have moved on to writing something else. Or maybe I will have something to show people. Or maybe I’ll just be in Year 2 of 10. I don’t know. But I’m feeling good about any of the possibilities. I’m fine to be inside this uncertainty.
And Youngest Master Weisman, after a three-year absence, is going to give playing baseball a try again this year. He may suck. But who cares? Maybe, he’ll get a little bit closer to where he wants to be, and amid some inevitable frustration, he’ll have some fun.