Throwing Ideas Around: Writing, Playing, Marketing and Ball

Yesterday my family played ball together. This sounds trivial, but it was the first time, really, that we’d tossed a ball around: Charlie to Mommy to Mama to Leo to Charlie . . . It took some doing to convince the boys to play. Leo, especially, wanted only to hold the ball, as if it were a teddy bear, and Charlie was willing to throw, but not to Leo, since that seemed too much like handing the precious commodity over to his brother wholesale. In fact, Leo went off to play with sand, and we ended up forming our rhombus around him. Angie and I taught the boys that the great good fun of playing ball is in letting it go, again and again. It seems obvious to adults, now, but why, when there is so much meant to be held close, does this toy create more fun when you keep pushing it away?

As we cheered the throws and attempted throws, it occurred to me that there is a parallel here–as there usually is–to writing. So many people want to write, and I think it is because reading a great book makes you want to toss it–and maybe your own addition–right back into the world. The story exists between the reader and the writer, just as the fun with a ball exists between the players, not in grasping the object itself. Movement, energy, force, intent, connection, misses. Zoom. Leap. Catch. Throw.

It’s a funny thing. People take drawing classes and painting classes without long portions of the time given over to discussions of how to interest galleries in your work or get into the Whitney Biennial. But I don’t think that writers are so much more commercially oriented than other artists. I think the sometimes crass focus on “getting published” has to do with the desire to throw the ball. After all, your family probably wants to leaf through the pictures you’ve drawn in your live nudes class. But do they demand that you read your latest novelistic efforts at the dinner table?

There are multiple layers to the application of this metaphor to writing. You throw the ball when you take an idea and toss it onto the page. You throw the ball when you edit this work and renew it, and again when you show it to someone else, and again when it bounces out and back to various publications, agents, editors. You throw the ball when you blog, too, or comment on a blog. It’s a handy little game of catch, not the World Series, but a friendly back and forth while you chat about what is going on in your life.

I’ve been listening to a book on tape that Angie stuck onto my MP3 when I was going to London. It’s called Book Yourself Solid, and it is amazing if you are a service professional building a business. Maybe someone who hates marketing . . . It’s made me excited about thinking about the language that describes what I do. I work with people who love books and want to write them. I assist in transforming people into writers, ideas into manuscripts, manuscripts into books. I’m interested in clients who have a way with words or an amazing story or a powerful work ethic. If you have any one of these, I can get the other two up and running. If you have more than one . . . watch out, baby.

Okay, this is in the rough stages. Probably too early to share. But I like the bounce that comes from throwing something out into the world. I like the joy on my boys’ faces when they lobbed the ball away from themselves, learning that holding on tight is not the only, or the best, way to play.

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