I was at a 10-year-old’s baseball game on Saturday. One boy, with bases loaded, and two outs, made a hit. The ball went flying into the outfield and the other team had to scramble to chase it. But one boy did, in fact, catch it, and our side was out with no runs. The little hitter came back to the dugout fighting back tears. This may be one of the hardest ages to watch play sports. They are old enough to get upset about not doing well, but not old enough to hide it behind the tough-guy exterior yet.
His coach gave him a slap on the shoulder. “What’s wrong, buddy? You hit a great ball. Once the ball leaves the bat, it’s out of your hands.”
Now I don’t know enough about baseball to say if that is true or not. But it sounds like some good basic advice for life. Once we’ve done our best, we need to be able to accept that there may be nothing else we can do.
I have many writer friends, and that is one job where you have to take this idea to heart. They spend a lot of time sending out queries or sample chapters and then waiting. And the majority of the time when they hear back, the news is not good. If they took each rejection personally, they would never write again. So when they send in a story or a query, they let it go for the time being and work on other stuff. They accept there is a period when the work is with a publisher and there is nothing else they can do to make it liked or accepted, and since worry doesn’t help the progress along, they work on something else.
It is a wise path to take, I think. We live in a culture that tells us that with hard work, we can be anything we want. And that is true to an extent. But there are always two parts to the equation: what we can do and what others will or won’t do in return. We can hit a good ball, but we can’t guarantee that someone won’t catch it. We can write a good story but can’t guarantee that the magazine editor will have enough space to publish it. We can be entertaining on a first date, but can’t control the fact that we remind our date of his ex-wife.
Once we accept that there will always be factors beyond our control, life actually becomes a little easier to manage. We no longer feel that we have to keep the entire world in play, that others play a part as well.
Until next week.