Write Like Baseball

Did you know there are nine ways for a batter to reach first base in the game of baseball?

A few are obvious, of course. The batter could get a hit. Or a walk. Or even be hit by a pitch.

But those are not the only options. The batter could reach on a fielding error. Or hit into a fielder’s choice, a play in which the fielder could throw him out at first but instead chooses to throw to another base. Or dash to first base when a third strike is dropped or passes by the catcher. If a catcher interferes with a pitch, the batter is awarded first base, as also happens if a fielder interferes with the batter’s progress to first base. The batter could even reach first base if his batted ball hits a teammate on the base path before contact with a defensive player.

If you’re keeping score, that’s nine ways a batter can reach first base (hold the juvenile jokes, please). Some list even more, but those are usually variations of the above.

So what does this have to do with writing for publication?

I’m glad you asked. I meet many writers who focus all their efforts on one way to reach first base, so to speak. “I just need someone to publish my memoir,” they say. Or, “I’ve written six vampire novels, and no one will give them a second look.”

It’s possible, of course, for such a writer to succeed. But I more often see publishing success among writers who pursue various paths to publication.

If you have a beautifully-written, unique memoir, get that puppy into proposal and see if someone recognizes its charm. But don’t stop there. Launch a blog and write regular, focused blog posts on a subject about which you’re passionate. Guest post on someone else’s blog or website. Write and submit reviews of books you’ve enjoyed. Interact online and in groups with readers who love the things you love. Enter your work into contests. Come up with another book idea or two. Spin off a speech or seminar on those ideas.

The principle applies to short form as well. Sure, a byline in The New Yorker would be nice, but why not also try other forms and markets? Flash fiction? A devotion? Trade magazines? Your local newspaper? (I was such a regular letter-to-the-editor writer in our town newspaper that when I eventually pitched a regular column—for pay!—to the Op/Ed page editor, he agreed).

Years ago, I coached a friend who had worked and reworked a nonfiction book manuscript. Though I didn’t see much promise in the manuscript, I helped him develop a proposal to take to a writer’s conference where he would meet with agents and editors. I also suggested that he come up with another idea, in case his pet project failed to generate any interest. He took my advice, and wrote a one-page query to keep in his “back pocket.” That query led to his first book. Which led to his second, third, and fourth books. His pet project never made it to publication.

Imagine if he had insisted on that one path to first base, so to speak. Would he have become discouraged and disillusioned? Would he have given up? Would he still be writing and publishing today?

It’s impossible to know, of course. We could speculate, but we don’t have to, because he was willing to put the ball into play, so to speak, any number of ways.

38 Responses to Write Like Baseball

  1. Callie Daruk July 26, 2017 at 5:10 am #

    Bob, thanks for the wonderful post and admonishment to just get out there on that field, swing and to run towards our goal any way we can!

  2. Damon J. Gray July 26, 2017 at 5:21 am #

    It is easy to become that horse with blinders on who can see only one path down the road before him. We often hear complaints that say, “I just have too many irons in the fire,” but in this case, that is actually a good thing to have.

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 6:33 am #

      Absolutely, Damon. We should also be careful to keep those hot irons away from those horses.

    • Rebekah Love Dorris July 26, 2017 at 7:30 am #

      That’s really comforting, Damon. I’ve got plenty of irons in the fire, so it’s nice to hear that’s a good thing when it seems so crazy!

      I also heard today how important it is to stay in “your own lane.” I guess that’s a good baseball analogy too. If you’re a great catcher, don’t sweat it if your fastball is 40 mph. Not everybody can catch.

      It’s encouraging to think God has given me this certain skill set and He will make up the difference, even using my perceived competence that’s really ignorant incompetence, if I cast my whole load on Him. As long as I show up. And then, swing batter batter!

      Great article, Mr. Hostetler. And the graphic designer in me just wanted to gaze at that stock photo. Such beautiful work! So much more powerful than a bland baseball shot.

      God bless 🙂

  3. Bryan Mitchell July 26, 2017 at 5:35 am #

    Never realized there were so many ways to get to first base. Very inspiring. Thanks Bob!

  4. Carol Ashby July 26, 2017 at 5:38 am #

    The hardest part of pushing a car is getting it started. Once it’s rolling, it’s pretty easy to keep it moving. Writing is a lot like that. Every little bit adds to your momentum. You may not move very fast, but at least you’re moving.

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 6:35 am #

      Yes, Carol, that’s exactly right. And it’s hard to know which car will win the race so it’s ideal to bet on them all. Or something like that. I may have lost my train of thought. 🙂

  5. Kathy Nickerson July 26, 2017 at 6:01 am #

    Oh! This is so helpful. I shall keep swinging, but I’ll take a walk or an infield error. Getting beaned would definitely be my last choice. I’m trying novels, essays, columns, and flash fiction these days.

  6. Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 6:36 am #

    Well done, Kathy! And don’t disdain taking one on the ol’ noggin for the team. 🙂

  7. Angie Dicken July 26, 2017 at 6:44 am #

    You are speaking my language–two-fold! I am a baseball mom…one son has played over 60 games this season…and I am certain we have at least four times as many ahead of us! He’s a first baseman too…lots and lots of runners come his way!
    I am so thankful for the many roads to publication. Both stories that are being published this fall had been on submission long ago…received rejections…etc. But just like baseball, there’s always another at bat ahead! 🙂

    Thanks for the post!

  8. Deb Santefort July 26, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    This makes me ask myself, how badly do I want this? And for me, it’s not about wanting to reach the goal of publication, it’s about allowing God to use me as he pleases. So I see it as a balance, I have to push myself but I also have to accept that God has a plan for my life and it may or may not involve publication.

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 8:36 am #

      Beautiful point, Deb. If the goal is having an impact, getting across a message, rather than simply publication, then there are so so many ways to do that. And we can’t know if we’d make a great bat handler if we never try bunting. Or something like that.

  9. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 26, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    And you you’re riding the bench, use the opportunity to study what your team-mates are doing…and study the opposing pitcher, making note of the opportunities his delivery affords.

  10. Karen Saari July 26, 2017 at 7:03 am #

    A person can learn so much from baseball. I love baseball. My friends say, “Oh, it’s too slow for me.” and I reply, “That’s what I like about it. I can follow it!”

    I can’t follow ice hockey – where is that stupid little thing? I can’t even follow football – I thought the ball was over there? Basketball – same deal.

    My point is, if you go too fast you lose the ball. Slow and steady wins the race.

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 8:40 am #

      I don’t find it slow, myself, Karen, because of the strategy. There are at least ten players on the field at any moment, each playing his part, and there is a strategy in every move, every pitch, every twitch. And so much more. It is the beautiful game.

      • Angie Dicken July 26, 2017 at 8:47 am #

        We often say it is a very mental game–it’s amazing to watch a player evolve from “going through the motions” to understanding their specific position, the possibilities of each play, and the overall strategy and executing their part intelligently. So many ways to apply the game to all sorts of matters in life. 🙂

  11. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 26, 2017 at 7:50 am #

    Bob, you undoubtedly know Keats’ sonnet, “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”.

    Awhile back I heard of a teacher who had assigned his class the study of that poem, and one of his students came back puzzled, thinking it would be about baseball.

    The lad had unconsciously inserted a comma into the sonnet’s title, and the teacher thought…”Wow…that’s the kind of instinct that makes the world such an interesting place!”

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 26, 2017 at 7:54 am #

      Aah, my fingers got ahead of my brain again. What impressed the teacher was the way the slightly modified title placed the student as a base-runner on first, as Chapman rips a rising drive down the right-field line, and out.

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 8:41 am #

      That’s a great anecdote, Andrew. Hilarious. The power of a comma.

  12. Inger Logelin July 26, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Excellent advice. This guy knows what he’s talking about!

  13. John de Sousa July 26, 2017 at 10:25 am #

    That is such useful, practical information! Sounds like that could be fun, as well as productive. Now my wheels are turning. Hmmmm…
    Thanks for the thoughts!

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

      I’m sorry, John. “Wheels turning” is not a baseball metaphor. Get with the program.

  14. Kathy July 26, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    I love this analogy! What a great way to look at the many facets of writing!

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks, Kathy. Baseball analogies are in my wheelhouse. Wait a minute…

  15. Sheri Dean Parmelee July 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    Bob, your words were very encouraging to me, since I am now writing something other than my pet project, which is out with publishers but which has not born fruit yet.

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

      Thank you, Sheri. I’m so glad to hear it. I could cite a long list of people who found a fruitful ministry because they kept thinking and working while waiting for their “pet project” to bear fruit.

  16. parysprose July 26, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    Thank you for a fresh outlook. Your originality is an encouragement.
    ( Are you related to Joyce Hosteler? She’s a great writer too.) Blessings, Jan

    • Bob Hostetler July 26, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

      Thank you, Jan. I am probably related to Joyce. If she knows of a massacre in her family history, then it’s certain. (Seriously. It’s called the Hochstetler Massacre and is the subject of a couple historical novels I wrote with a distant cousin, titled NORTHKILL and THE RETURN). That is a bit of shorthand I’ve used over the years when people wonder if we’re related; if it rings a bell with them, then I’ll sometimes ask for names of father, grandfather, etc., and can chart our common lineage.

  17. Michael Emmanuel July 27, 2017 at 3:04 am #

    Exactly the dose I needed to take for this morning. Thank you very much sir.
    And I should watch some baseball.

  18. Edward Lane July 27, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    Thank you for sharing, Bob! Great stories. That was inspiring to read.

  19. John Turney August 3, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    With the Cincinnati Reds stuck in last place, let’s try a football metaphor. It takes a team to score a touchdown. With a gameplan, the team attempts to move the ball down the field to score a touchdown. Just as there are multiple ways to reach first in baseball, it takes a multiple of plays to score a TD.

    For a writer, the gameplan can include scheduled writing, practice-practice-practice, learning the craft of writing, research and researching markets. Just to name a few.

    A writer also needs a team. Being friends with other writers. I knew Bob from when I was just beginning. He never raised his nose at talking with a beginner and was always encouraging. Writers need those kinds of writing friends. Also on our team is our family members. They might not get the idea of you being a writer, but they are always asking for updates. The same with non-writing friends. These can be your offensive line

    You also need those who can move the ball. Writing friends who provide you with good industry contacts. Agents who believe in you. Contacts from conferences, like the one in Mason, Ohio in November.

    And when you succeed and score publication, your team is there with high-fives and victory hugs.

  20. Janine Rosche September 8, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    Thanks for pointing me to this article, Bob! More lessons learned. I love your practical suggestions for things to try like reviewing, seminars, guest-blogging, etc.

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