Monday, May 6, 2013

Why We Do What We Do, by Matthew MacNish


We've been having some amazing, very professional looking posts going up here at Project Mayhem lately. This is my first time back after the April A to Z Challenge, and I'm a little intimidated. I would hate to tarnish the reputation of this incredible blog with the kind of drivel I tend to post.

But then I remembered that's just insecurity talking, and it would be foolish to let such a thing make decisions for me.

Writing is hard work sometimes. Especially being an aspiring novelist, who is still unpublished after years of trying (I say especially, but of course I don't actually know. All my published friends tell me it's even harder afterward). You spend the majority of your time, slaving away at what is admittedly a labor of love, but when there's so little to show for it, sometimes you have to ask: why?

So ... I took my nephew to the Triple A Gwinnett Braves on Friday night. It's like major league baseball, only cheaper. And Brian McCann was there, playing to rehab after an injury, so it was even more like major league. For those who don't know, Brian McCann is the catcher for the Atlanta Braves, and was the MVP of the all star game a couple years ago, so he's kind of a big deal.


Anyway, my nephew, who is six, and who loves baseball like he loves nothing else in this world, had the time of his life. The stadiums in minor league ball are much smaller, and give the fans a lot more freedom. We were able to wander around, and change seats whenever we wanted, and pretty much just enjoy the game as we pleased.

Near the end, when the seventh inning ended in a strike out, we went down to the edge of the field, and the little guy held his glove out, asking for a ball, and the catcher of the opposing team tossed it right into his glove on his way to the dugout. The little boy's face lit up like the sun.



I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but it was raining by then. It didn't matter one bit. That little baseball fan was so happy he couldn't sit still. He spent the rest of the game talking and talking and talking about what he was going to do with that ball.

And that got me to thinking.

Why do we do what we do?

For ball players, I'm sure the money is nice, and I'm sure the love of the game has something to do with it, but I can't help wondering: if there were no fans, especially young ones, would there still be baseball?

It's the same with writing, I need to remind myself. Sure, telling stories is sometimes something we need to do. And I suppose at first, we write for ourselves, like Toni Morrison suggested, but I think in the long run, at least for those of us who stay with it long enough for there to be a long run, the readers are all that matter.

Especially the young ones.

51 comments:

  1. Very cool he got a baseball!
    We don't write for the money, we write because we enjoy it. If we were to write for any other reason, we'd be miserable.

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  2. Yeah, I've seen authors say how they had a bad day, and then check their e-mails, and it helps them get through it. And to delight some kid who's having a hard time, what more could you ask for than that?

    And cool pics!

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  3. Ditto on what Alex said. We write because we love it.

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  4. I think we all ask ourselves that question a lot. I agree it's for the readers and for the love of writing. For me, even if I never get published, I enjoy writing and as long as I do, I'll continue writing.

    Glad your nephew had so much fun. It's great you live near enough to him to take him to the baseball game.

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    1. We're really lucky here in Atlanta, because we can go downtown for the MLB games, and if we want something a little cheaper, the Triple A park is right down the road.

      Thanks, Natalie!

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  5. I think people that love baseball would play without anyone watching or anyone to see. People do it all the time. That's way they form leagues or pickup games or whatever. It's for the enjoyment of the activity. Sure, having fans and getting paid and all of that makes it better, but those guys would play anyway without all of that just because they like playing.

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    1. It's a metaphor, Andrew. Sheesh.

      Just kidding. I know what you mean. And it's the same with writing. I'd do it anyway. Actually heck, that's exactly what I do.

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  6. Metawhat? :P

    See! I know what it is I speak of!

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  7. What a cutie! Looks like he had a total blast. Little known truth: I emotionally gave up on getting traditionally published ages ago. But I still write because it's what I love. And I still query because- hey, why the hell not? And I still critique and do revisions for betas and agents because it hones my craft. I think without an audience, the passion still remains. But there's always a glimmer of hope, too, that people will enjoy your passion right along with you.

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    1. I've had to distance myself from worrying about getting published too, Katie. It was getting in the way of me actually writing, and that's not how it should be.

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  8. I know how you feel Matt but any time I ask myself why it becomes, well what if I don't? I don't have an answer for that so I guess I better keep writing :)

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  9. You highlight a dilemma for writers, Matt. Those of us who write incessantly and feverishly do so not only because we love it, but also because we hope to find readers who love our work too. (Otherwise, we'd be pouring it all into our locked journals and hiding away the key.) Unfortunately, the latter part--being traditionally published and promoted--is not totally within our power. What is within our power? Honing our craft through reading, through being critiqued and critiquing; making important connections (hi, blogging pals!); doing bucketloads of writing, the good stuff and the bad; and never giving up. I tell myself that the end result (having readers read my stories) will be the sweeter for all the struggles I've been through. I'm not usually a military man, bro, but Semper Fi.

    And thanks for sharing your baseball story. A 6 year-old's enthusiasm is contagious. I wish we still had AAA baseball in Portland :(

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    1. It was a lot of fun! And yeah, I hear you Mike. Thanks for your support.

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing that, Matthew. We always need to remember why we do what we do.

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  11. Yes. I think about the readers—I want to share my story with others.

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  12. So very true! I'm constantly complaining about all the marketing crap I always have to do. Yes, it IS harder afterwards, but as hard as it is, it's also fulfilling when you read the reviews. I've learned that its the quality of the reviews I prefer over the quantity. I don't need to be a best seller. But I do need to know that, for those who DO read, they really enjoyed it & are happy they read it. The readers & their feedback are everything.

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    1. I'm sure it's as wonderful as it is nerve-wracking. Thanks, Nancy!

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  13. Matthew,
    I swore many times I was going to give up writing, and sometimes I stopped for a year or more, but I always came back to it. Ite seems to be true for a lot of writers. I have other things I would like to learn to do, like paint, but as long as I've still got stories I want to tell, it's hard to imagine taking the time away from writing to do other things.

    And great story about your nephew. I love seeing extreme enthusiasm for anything!

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    1. Thanks, Dee! I'm sure you're right.

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  14. Love this post. And absolutely, the readers are all that matters. I think it just takes us a long time (some of us longer than others #thiswouldbeme) to write past what we have to say for us and get to what our characters want to say to our readers.

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    1. That is very well said! Thanks, Martina.

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  15. There's no real reason for why I write. I just know that I've been writing almost as long as I could remember, literally as long as I've known how to write, since age 4, in 1984. It's just something I've always done. For that reason, I've never understood the modern phrase "aspiring writer." If you're actively writing, whether you're published or not, you're a real writer, not just "aspiring" to be a writer!

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    1. That's why I always say "aspiring novelist." Thanks for your comment, Carrie-Anne!

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  16. Personally I started writing because I enjoyed it. My family's not the writer type so if it wasn't for the love before I got readers...I'd be doing something else. But readers are still very essential. Glad the little guy caught the ball. There are different types of 'Why' when it comes to writing but you can't do if in the long run if you hate it.

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  17. Great story, and a profound lesson here. I think a lot of people write simply for themselves, and that's fine. But there's something amazing when you can share that with others.

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  18. Maybe. It definitely begs the question: why do some of us write porn? We could say it's "for the reader" but really...there's probably something else goin' on if ya know what I mean.

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    1. I suppose there's a little bit of selfishness in everything we do.

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  19. also, i think the pay off for when we do succeed will be AMAZING AND WORTH IT

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    1. I sure I hope so! Thanks, Sarah.

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  20. We write because we have to. (Our brains would explode with untold stories otherwise.) But the payoff is unbelievable when you ignite the imagination and spirit and heart of a reader.

    I see that when I read aloud to my class. I hope Gordon Korman and Neil Shusterman and Kenneth Oppel and Richard Peck are feeling that pay-off when I read their books aloud year after year to my classes. There must be some glow, don't you think, when somebody somewhere is reading your book to children?

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  21. Great post, Mathew. I love minor league games too. Lot's of fun and much more accessible as you say.

    I think a lot about why I write these days. When I write and spend time in the action of writing/revising I feel just a little more complete as a human being. I feel more like me. It sounds corny but noticing how it makes me feel reminds me why I need to go back and do it again. It's purpose and complete-ness all rolled into one.

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    1. It doesn't sound corny to me at all, Joe. Not one bit.

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  22. You're right. The chain doesn't feel complete unless someone is reading/hopefully loving what you write.

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  23. Lovely sentiment, and I agree. I certainly did start writing for me, for fun. Just to see if I could. Dang, but it's fun. Well, at least it was fun until I sold the book. Now it's a dang lot of work! =D

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    1. That's the part I dread. It's hard enough already!

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  24. Can't imagine writing if I didnt think (or hope) someone would read it. I think it's human nature to want to entertain and please others, not only for our own satisfaction, but cuz it feels good giving others pleasure thru our art.

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    1. Yeah, even if we start writing for ourselves, I think we keep writing for others.

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  25. I think we write for the same reason we breathe: because we have to. For years, I never thought about readers, and I sometimes wonder if that's why I'm not published yet. But now I try to picture that one special reader (a child, since I write MG and PBs) and write for them. If I could reach just one kid, and fill them with wonder, it would all be worth it.

    How do you suppose Emily Dickinson kept on writing poetry all those years?

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    1. Agreed, Joanne. Even touching one reader's heart would be amazing.

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  26. Well I know people in my IRL circle of friends think its crazy i spend all my free time blogging about books but hey - its because i love the online reading community and sharing my thoughts and reading books before they hit the streets. Mostly its for the community though. Dig it!

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    1. This is exactly why I don't tell many IRL friends about writing or blogging.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!