Tag Archives: perspective

What Success Looks Like: Lessons from Little League

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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:

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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.”

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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!”

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profile picElaine 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.

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Inspiration, rejection and success, Satisfaction

A Different Kind of Call

I got a voice mail from my mom a few weeks ago—just 10 seconds long, saying “Call me when you get this.”

My heart plummeted. For a year, I’ve been getting messages like these, and they almost always mean that my mom is back in the hospital. Or, at the very least, that she took a trip to the ER and was sent home once she’d stabilized. It’s the kind of information you don’t really want to leave—or receive—in a voice mail.

But over these past couple of months, things really looked like they were taking a turn for the better. Mom had not needed any emergency hospital trips for weeks. She’d slowly weaned herself off of supplemental oxygen, and her once-enormous trach tube had been swapped for a smaller size. She was getting out and about town, and was even talking about starting to drive again. A year after a string of medical procedures had left her intubated and fighting for her life on a ventilator—half a year after she’d basically relearned how to walk after months in a hospital bed—she finally seemed to be making real progress.

That’s why I didn’t want to return her call.

I didn’t want to hear that she’d been rushed back to the hospital, unable to breathe—that recovery was, once again, slipping out of her grasp.

My fingers shook as I hit the buttons on my phone. Mom answered on the second ring, but then told me to hold on for a second. As I held, I heard coughs rack her lungs, and I knew that when she came back on the line, the first words out of her mouth were going to be “I’m in the hospital.”

But they weren’t.

“I’ve been up until two in the morning every night this week—” she started, and after a millisecond of elation (she’s not in the hospital!) my heart sank again. She can’t sleep. She’s been up coughing. She has bronchitis again, or pneumonia. But then she finished the sentence with “—reading your book.”

“And it was wonderful!” she went on brightly. “You know I’m a slow reader, but I just couldn’t stop reading the story to go to sleep. And the ending is so good, it just left me wanting more. So I just wanted to call and tell you how much I loved it.”

ALL FOUR STARS arcsSuddenly, I was the one who could hardly breathe. This wasn’t a bad-news call at all. It was a great-news call. When I had visited my parents earlier in the month, I’d left them with an advance copy of All Four Stars, my first novel. My mom had read a draft years earlier, and given how long it had taken her to get through the manuscript that time, I’d expected that it would be months before she finished this version. But she’d blasted through it in a matter of days, and was now excited to talk about the changes I’d made and how she could help recruit friends to attend the New York launch party I’m starting to plan for its release.

That release will be just a few days before my sister’s wedding, and if I had to pinpoint a day this year when my mom’s health really seemed to take a turn for the better, it was the day that Brooke got engaged. Suddenly, instead of dwelling on the struggles of this past year and discomforts of the present, Mom had a concrete reason to look forward to the future. And it seems that now that she’s read my book, there’s an extra something to look forward to.

For writers, the year before your first book comes out is filled with exciting milestones. You do final edits, see the pages get designed and laid out, see your cover, hold advance copies in your hands. But the one thing that has surprised me most about this past year is how my book has brought me closer to various members of my family. I’ve reconnected with cousins and in-laws who have middle-grade-aged kids and grandkids. I’ve come to rely on my foodie aunt more and more as both an early reader of my drafts and a final reader (she has a great eye for typos). And now I’ve gotten my mom a little more excited about the book’s launch.

As my debut year—with all of its obligations and stresses—starts to pick up steam, I’m sure that I’ll find myself at times to be in desperate need of clarity and perspective. In those moments, I’m going to try to look back to this call with my mom. To remember what kind of impact the right story, at the right time, can have on a single reader; and to remember that, no matter what reviewers or Goodreads users have to say, my book has already done a little bit of good in this world.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014, everyone.

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Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com, and on Twitter at @TaraDairman.

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Filed under ARCs, Thankfulness, Writing and Life