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Giving Up Goals for the New Year?
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In an essay on the Poisoned Pen Press blog, Knuckleballs and Art, author Ken Khulken uses an example from baseball, one of my favorite things, to make a perfect observation about another of my favorite things, writing.

Baseball fans know that pitcher R.A.Dickey, in his mid-thirties when most baseball players are nearing the end of their careers, transformed himself from a mediocre-at-best performer into a Cy Young Award winner.

Dickey attributes the change to a near fatal swim which changed his attitude towards his work. Ken Khulken sees a link to writing:

"...commercial writing is the product of approaching our work like Dickey used to, before the Missouri River swim, when his goal was to thrive as a pro ball player. Now, his goal has little or nothing to do with becoming something or somebody, as it is grounded in the present, with the attempt to throw the best pitch, one at a time."

There is something similar here to the idea I have always tried to embrace, without much success, that in whatever we do we need to concentrate on the process of doing it, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the desired results.

In a way professional pitching and professional writing are not comparable. The pitcher who perfects his art and gets batters out is going to get paid. The writer on the other hand....

Allow me to put aside the vexed question of what exactly "good writing" in the abstract might be. I do have an idea of what I consider good. What I would like to write. And I am pretty sure if I were by some miracle to produce exactly the sort of novel I want to -- my own perfect achievement -- it would be utterly unpublishable in today's market.

So perhaps the secret to writing is not just to block out any thought of a desired result while working, but to not desire any results at all beyond the words on the screen.

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