I used to care a lot about how things did.
I think most people are that way.
I remember when my first book, Trust Me I’m Lying, came out I was probably 10% proud of what I’d done and 90% eagerly awaiting for the first week sales to tell me the rest of how proud I should be.
It was interminable, waiting to find out if I hit the bestseller lists.
But as I’ve gone on, I’ve become less and less this way.
It was a slow shift, I think, the product of getting skunked on the list more than a couple times. A result of realizing, as most creators eventually do, that sometimes the thing you think is your best work does the worst, and the thing you threw together in a few minutes suddenly does millions of views or outsells everything else.
I have this recurring image that plays in my mind these days, especially when I am working on a book or a particularly difficult article. I’d close my eyes, think about the project, and there it would be. The image is of an unidentifiable baseball player at the plate. It’s zoomed in like one of those SportsCenter closeups, and the batter is already mid-swing and connecting with the ball. It’s one of those beautiful, old-timey swings like Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams used to take. The front leg extended, the back leg all the way back, the bat coming up and hitting the ball perfectly.
That’s it. That’s the whole image.
I don’t see where the ball goes, whether it was a base hit or a grand slam. I suspect earlier in my career, I would have cared about the outcome. I would have cared about who the player was and what team he played for. I would have needed to know whether the ball went foul or found a fielder’s mitt or cleared the upper deck. But as I have gotten better as a writer, paradoxically, it doesn’t even occur to me that such a thing would matter.
The image is just the connection. The bat meeting the ball. The thing that is supposed to be all but physically impossible — hitting a rock coming at 90 miles per hour, that traveled from an elevated mound down to the batter in less than 400 milliseconds. Over and over again. The connection.