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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Spring Training For Writers



I just got back from a wonderful excursion to South Florida, a welcoming respite from the New York winter.  Aside from trading up about 45º worth of temperature.  I was given an opportunity to see the dawning of this year’s spring training for Major League Baseball.

While staying at my in-laws' vacation house in Boynton Beach, I read in the Palm Beach Post that a brand new stadium was opening about 30 minutes from us, in northern Palm Beach County, not far from the local airport.  This sounded like a great opportunity to go see baseball in February.

I went with my two kids and father-in-law to witness the first public use of the facility.  The complex which houses both the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, is a 150-million-dollar baseball haven.  The main stadium was still under construction when we went, which was six days before the first game was to be played there (Ballpark at the Palm Beaches).

It occurred to me, while I absorbed baseball activity for the first time since the Chicago Cubs made history in winning their first World Series in over a century, that writers would benefit from a “spring training.”

Of course, there are many differences between the worlds of baseball and authoring books, mainly that sports are physical and writing is mental, that sports favors a certain size and shape but writing requires curiosity and intelligence, and baseball players get paid a lot more than most writers compete to be the best in their chosen field, and even when success seems reachable it can elude both the baseball player and the writer.  Both athletes and writers put their work out there for public critique.

But many key differences exist that can’t bring any comparison to the table.  The athlete’s career is short-- at best he gets to play to around age 40-but due to injury and competition, he will conclude his career at a much younger age.  Writers can start when they are fairly young and continue until the day they die, even hacking away past the age of 100.  The cerebral art of writing has it challenges, but the body can’t rob writers the way it can athletes, save for Alzheimer's or arthritis.

For baseball players, there is an off-season.  Even if you are fortunate to play out the longest season – win the World Series in seven games – you end play around November 1.  Spring training doesn’t begin until at least 3 ½ months later.  Who else takes off 100 straight days from their job?  Not even school teachers get a continuous break that long.

The break allows them time to heal physically and mentally.  It’s a time for rest and renewal.  They may still do some light exercise workouts and stick to some kind of diet, but they no longer have to report to work or give deep thought or commitment to anything.

Writers don’t get a scheduled break like that.  Sure, there are times when they are on a deadline for a book or writing assignment.  Other times they are on self-imposed deadlines, pushing themselves to excel.  But writers don’t have clear seasons or start and end dates.  Year-round, writers are always writing, even when they’re not.  They need a relief from the mental burden of creating.

If writers had the equivalent of a spring training they could relax their brain muscle and give themselves a change of scenery.  Then they can come back with a fresh, new focus and inspired approach.  Sometimes to produce more, one must stop and take a break.

My father-in-law was struck at the site of watching millionaire professionals still practicing Little League-type drills of covering first base on bunts, looking to pick off a runner at second, or a catcher throwing down to third base.  He figured they knew all of this and had little need to practice it.  But he realized that in order to be the best, you have to improve by micro measurements on the performance of the most basic task that we take for granted.

The baseball player has several coaches, a manager, special instructors, and a physical trainer.  The writer is often left alone to his own devices, unless he seeks out a writer’s retreat or the advice of a trusted source, like a literary agent or book editor.

Baseball players are part of a team and each player’s overall success depends on his teammates’ performances.  The writer depends on no one else, always the loner.

One can go on and on looking at the differences and similarities between the baseball player and the writer.  They have a symbiotic relationship, as some writers love to write about baseball and their work is intricately woven into the fabric of the sport.  But one thing is clear to me – writers need their sabbatical, their spring training, so they can go away and then return invigorated, enlivened, and hungry.  They need to be told something has ended and that something new, shall soon begin, that a break from the very thing they love and are great at doing will make them even more passionate and productive.

As a fan, though I want to see baseball played year-round, I recognize the break is the perfect way to refuel for a new season and a fresh start.  We can all benefit from spring training.  Now play ball!

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blo

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