Sports & Writing

Eric Kim  
"Listen up, because I've got nothing to say and I'm only gonna to say it once." ~ Yogi Berra

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer to that was a baseball player. And I really thought I had a shot. What kid doesn’t when speaking of his dream? Suffice it to say, things didn’t turn out as I had hoped. I should have learned my lesson. I didn’t. I next wanted to be a tennis player. And again life put me in my place. Did I dare tempt fate for a third time? I did, I do. Indeed writing is my last ditch effort at fame, riches, and immortality. Here’s how I intend to make it happen or zonk out trying.

1) There's a saying in basketball: don't settle. It means going for the higher percentage shot for the sake of the team. How does this relate to writing? It doesn't as there is no team in writing. It's you against time and self-doubt. And yet the injunction resonates. It resonates in the sense that if you settle when writing, you won't push yourself to the limits of your capability. Settle and your literary game will stagnate, regress, and even degenerate. Don’t settle, and there’s a chance you’ll surprise yourself to the extent you’ll be content to call it a career knowing that if you put your mind to it you can make words heed your whims and megrims.

2) Swing for the fences. This comes from baseball, arguably America’s pastime. When applied to the game itself, it's actually bad advice, as it's an all-or-nothing philosophy that's more about attitude than winning strategy. Applied to writing, it not only makes sense; it should serve as a motto. No one wants to read about undergraduates getting high on cannabis and talking about pseudo intellectual nonsense while listening to Pink Floyd. But write a story involving a domestic dispute that spills into the public domain where a life hangs in the balance, and the chances are you’ll have us wondering who, what, where, why, how. And if comedy is your thing, what could be funnier and more ironic than a story about an altruistic atheist who lives long and prospers before dying peacefully in his sleep at the ripe age of 105?

3) Last but not least, defense will win you championships. This is a saying that actually applies to both sports and writing. Unlike offense which is equally dependent on your skill and the vagaries of luck or what have you, defense, being a matter of effort and commitment, is entirely up to you. Likewise, something like divine intervention is required to write the perfect passage in one go, whereas it’s entirely up to you to stare at a paragraph for hours on end for the sake of getting it just right. As the former occurs about as often as a total eclipse (if at all), the writer would do well to rely chiefly on his level of effort and energy to get through a typical day of writing. Rely on anything else, and productive days will be far and few between.

4) Oh, I forgot. One more thing. Pressure is a privilege. This saying has a one-to-one correspondence to writing. Writing is a privilege. This is especially true historically but even today when writers seem like dime a dozen, only a handful will have a readership beyond the here and now. Of course not everyone can be a Hemingway or a Scott Fitzgerald, and I imagine some of us don't care to be one. That's all fine and dandy but consider this: let's say you are a fisherman, and you have the choice of catching a bass or a marlin. Or let's say you are a hunter and the object of your hunt is a groundhog or a fully matured antlered buck. I wonder which you would choose. As if you already didn’t know, the bigger the occasion, the greater the thrill, the more intense the adrenaline rush.



Interesting topic. My chosen sport is cross-country skiing. I competed in it from the age of about 6 through the end of high school, and was ranked 3rd in RMD(Rocky Mountain Division) as a middle school student. Skiing will not bring you fame or wealth. If you are the very best in North America, you are still nothing when you are up against Europeans. And even if you are one of those Norwegians with a chance of winning, it’s only for a season. It’s a sport with a very wide base and an extremely narrow top.
So from my sport, I’ve learned that it’s not about winning or what others think. It’s you, your body, and, the snow. It’s about being with friends. The real winners are the 80-year-olds who are still skiing.
Take this in to writing and it’s not about units sold, money made, or even about publishing, unless that’s what you like. It’s you and words on a page.

Mar-28 at 02:10


Sports isn’t only about the training the body but the mind, and in that it has a direct correlation to writing. Thanks for the response. I can definitely see how cross-country skiing can benefit writing and vice-versa.

Mar-28 at 02:35


Loved your blog on sports and writing. Clean and mean. I especially liked your paragraph on “defense”. You’ll know why when I tell you I’m a Kentucky fan- the Cats had enough firepower to get to the Final Four this year…but their defense let them down.
Great comments on the writing process, grounded yet aspirational.

Apr-03 at 22:58


Oh, man. Your opening definitely resonated.

Me? I was going to be an actress. A rock star. An artist. A comic. Now, a writer… basically all the things you can never actually make a living at unless you’re the one-in-a-million. And just yesterday I had to have a talk with my son who’s convinced he can become rich as a Youtuber. I told him that, when perusing creative fields, you have to love doing it, first and foremost. If you never make a penny but still love it, then go for it! If not… well, plumbing is a steady career :grimacing:

Apr-03 at 23:49


@Scuffling Thanks for a good tell-it-like-it-is blog post. Can I say that writing a novel manuscript is like training for and running a marathon?

By the way, you had me at Yogi Berra. :billed_cap: :baseball:

Apr-04 at 02:02


@Jballard UConn looks frighteningly good. I only hope their opponent puts up a fight and avoids getting routed. And thank you for the compliment. :smiling_face_with_tear:

@Luluo Yes, absolutely. Life is the great teacher. Still, I don’t know where we’d be w/o dreams.

@Deelo316 Writing a novel is marathon, indeed. And, yes, Yogi Berra puts a smile on my face too.

Apr-04 at 02:37


My thing is boxing.

I think everything about boxing applies to writing. Drilling and repetition will put key movements and combinations into your muscle memory ensuring they are there when they need to be. Being in the trenches regularly prepares you mentally to push and pull through when it gets tough.

Lots of people have thrown a punch in their lives and a few might even have knocked someone out, but that doesn’t make them boxers. A boxer moves different, hits different. Is always learning and growing. Same goes for a proper writer. We all write, but to actually be a writer of prose/fiction is something else.

With boxing, a fighter will have natural qualities, some tall, some tanky, some with plenty of power some with volume, the same goes for writing. The trick with boxing is to not sit on your natural qualities like a crutch but to find a way to move and fight and a style that compliments your body and natural qualities and makes the most of them. The same goes for writing you have to figure out what what sort of material you can write at the highest level, what style story suits your style as a writer what keeps you engaged, what would you want to read if someone else wrote it.

More than anything, boxing has taught me that body and mind are explicitly interconnected.

Far too many book smart people seem to treat their body as if it is simply a vehicle for transporting around their mind.

Moving your body stimulates your mind and vice versa. And repetition is king, clear out the time each day to do anything on repetition and in relatively short order you’ll be well ahead of most of the rest.

No one got better at anything by not doing it. Writing is no exception to this rule.

Apr-04 at 09:20


A long time ago, I enrolled in a Tae Kwon Do class. I think I was five. Naturally the appeal was all about the fancy roundhouse kick and whatever fancy sounding punch I thought I could learn. As it turned out, the class emphasized physical fitness above all else. Talk about all the fun being sucked out of an activity. I know better now why that was, but back then I just couldn’t take it and quit. Writing isn’t unlike that. Before you can write a novel with hairpin turns and a blast of an ending, you have to master the humble sentence, cultivate the ruthlessness to weed out cliches, and build the stamina to bend an unwieldy paragraph to your will even if the cost is getting gray hair.

Apr-04 at 11:37


Interesting take on the writing game. I am a reluctant athlete, more in it for the “mens sana in corpore sano” than anything else.

I have to say, though, the sad truth is that the biggest connection I see in your analogy is that there are tons of super-talented ball players, and only a tiny minority of them will ever make a living at it.

It’s the same with any career that involves entertaining the masses: sports, the arts… and yes, YouTube. (My son’s career plan is to be a famous pot-smoking gamer on YouTube :roll_eyes:)

So while you say “don’t settle,” that’s exactly what most of us will have to do, at least as far as our career ambitions go. Which, come to think of it, is exactly why you’re right: I believe we shouldn’t settle with our stories, because that’s all that most of us are going to be left with, once it’s game over. So as long as we’re still in it, let’s swing for those fences, and let’s enjoy every moment of it.

Apr-06 at 15:56


Writing is an act of dreaming, so might as well dream big.

I also see it as sheer luxury, something that has no practical value. It’s a privilege we’re accorded for having secured subsistence, the fruit of civilization and culture.

Commodifying it therefore feels counter-intuitive.

Apr-06 at 16:43


Yup. In the US there’s around one million kids playing football in high school. In college, that drops to about 80 000 players. In the NFL there’s a grand total of 1,696 players active each year. And player #1697, the guy who didn’t make the cut, is an absolutely phenomenal athlete. A top 1% kind of player. Just not a top 0.1% player.

An agent has ten manuscripts in front of them. Five are okay, three are good, two are amazing. But they only have time for one. So one of those amazing stories gets turned down. Happens all the time.

But on the flip side, perseverance can get you pretty far. Sometimes it’s the undrafted guys who fight the hardest and end up on top. Look at quarterback Kurt Warner: he played football in college, but went undrafted. He tried out for the Packers, but was released and ended up stocking shelves at a grocery store. But he kept chipping away, playing for a minor league and applying to try out for various NFL teams. It’s a long story, but eventually he won the Super Bowl and was league MVP twice. You could certainly draw parallels with his story and that of writers like JK Rowling, who faced endless rejections and struggle before finally breaking into publishing.

Those who make it in sports and in writing share at least one trait: a belief in themselves verging on delusion. The belief that you will make it, even though you’ve been rejected or ignored over and over again. I say delusion because a lot of people with that belief still fail. But the ones who succeed always have it.

Apr-06 at 20:32


Life without art, music, books, etc. would hardly be worth living. That which contributes to happiness and spiritual wellbeing is not without practical value. Merely keeping the body alive isn’t living.

Apr-06 at 20:34


Your point is unassailable.:zipper_mouth_face:

Apr-06 at 21:25
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