This spring, it felt like my life had been taken over by little league. I had a daughter playing softball and a son playing baseball and between the two of them, we seemed to do little else. (Practice, games, driving, washing uniforms, packing snacks, Gatorade runs, etc.)
Things got significantly more exciting at the end of the season, because,
1. My daughter’s team won the championship, and
2. My son finally got a chance to pitch.
Each of these gave me a picture of what success looks like that I’ve been pondering ever since. As long as we’re writing, we’ll be judging our writing and determining its success. Sometimes by valid measures, sometimes not. Sometimes by internal measures, sometimes external. Each of us has a picture of what success would look like–a finished manuscript, an agent, a book deal, a bestseller, a movie deal, a starred review, a National Book Award. The picture changes as we move forward, and sometimes the finish line seems to recede on the horizon. When can we truly count ourselves successful?
Here’s what I learned from each of these little league experiences.
Lesson #1: As I mentioned, my daughter’s team won the championship. I think the magnitude of this is best illustrated by a conversation I had with my husband the night before the tournament started.
Me: Do you think we need to keep Wednesday clear on the schedule?
Husband: [laughs] No.
Me: Yeah. You’re right. At this point, there is a 0% chance they’ll be in the championship game.
Yes, I said those actual words. I wasn’t being cruel or pessimistic, just as realistic as possible. The team had lost almost all of their games. They were having fun, and we absolutely considered it a successful season, but 0% seemed like an honest assessment of their chances of winning their first two games and making it to the championship. But, of course, they did, and we scrambled to get her to that championship game, which her team won soundly. This is how happy she was:
So what’s the lesson in this? You may be far closer to success than you think. Even if you’re being absolutely practical (or even pessimistic) about your chances of success and determine the odds to be near zero, success may find you anyway. The key is to keep working. Show up for the game and do your best. That’s it.
Lesson #2: Ever since the Giants won the World Series in 2014 almost entirely on the pitching of Madison Bumgarner, my son has wanted to be a pitcher. And not in that “I want to be a pitcher and now I’m going to play video games” kind of way. He has pitched to his dad and his grandpa and his coaches and friends, and when nobody was there to catch the ball, he pitched to the back fence. He practiced almost every day, but for most of the season, there were better pitchers on the team and he played second base. But still, he pitched to people and walls and threw invisible baseballs in the kitchen.
And then his time came. He got to pitch a couple of innings. He walked the first batter, then pulled it together and shut down the next two innings, including four strikeouts. The next game, his coach let him pitch until he’d reached the league maximum pitch count. His coach later described the game as “by far the best pitching performance we’ve seen all season.”
This one was a strike for sure. 🙂
Again, the lesson: You may be far closer to success than you think. Even if all your hard work seems to have gotten you nowhere, your big break (pun intended) may be in the very next inning. The key is to keep working. Show up for the game and do your best. That’s it.
His team didn’t win the championship. She practiced and never got to throw a pitch in a game. Neither reached every goal they set out to accomplish. But do all three of us consider these little league seasons successful? Absolutely. Because success depends on showing up and working hard and, yes, achievement, but it’s about perspective too. We have to allow ourselves to celebrate. We have to create room in our hearts to recognize the successes, and to set things aside to shoot for next season.
I believe in you, readers. Whatever your picture of success looks like, I would not put your odds at 0%, and clearly it wouldn’t matter if I did. If you show up and work hard, good things will happen, often when you least expect them. In the words of my wonderful grandmother, who never once wished me good luck:
“Luck has nothing to do with it. You’re ready! I wish you success!”
Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.