Friday, March 29, 2013

Nice Shot! Sometimes You Just Know When It's Good

by Mindy McGinnis

As basketball season comes to a close I wanted to say a little something about a different type of muse than the one we usually talk about here. One that follows you onto the court or out to the field, one the lets you know which millisecond is the right one to release the pressure of your fingertips on the ball.

I was at an intermediate school sporting event recently to watch some of my students play. One of my non-atheltic friends came along for the ride and was astounded at the accuracy of which I would say, "Nice shot," before the ball had even completed its arc toward the basket ... to inevitably go through the hoop.

"How do you know?" she asked me. "Every time, you say that way before it goes in, and they make it."

I didn't have a good answer. I guess part of it is math—just looking at the arc of the shot or the angle that it hits the backboard. But I've never been very good at math, so I'm not sure that completely addresses what I experience in those moments. And I'm not the only one. Often I see other people celebrating the shot early—a victorious fist pump or a proud clap from a parent before the ball goes through the net. Invariably, they're former athletes.

I think it's the ghost of the confidence of my younger self, the girl who knew exactly at what moment to take the shot, make a pre-emptive pass to where I knew my teammate was going to cut through the lane, or duck an elbow from the girl guarding me who didn't appreciate the fact that I was killing her stats.

That confidence has transferred to the laptop these days. I still play ball every now and then, but I don't always know it's going to be good the way I used to. And writing can be that way as well.

We all know the days when we approach the laptop or notebook with a feeling of dread, the fear that today the words just aren't going to come, that the cursor is going to blink at us curiously while we stare back, unable to make it move forward and leave words in its wake.

But there are other times too—times when I know what I've got to say is going to flow out of me, days when I've been playing a scene in my head all day at work and the only thing I want is to get it onto the screen before it evaporates. Those days there's hardly any effort involved at all, and the story falls out of me onto the page because it wants to be there, not hidden away inside my head.

Here's hoping we all get more of the good days than the bad ones, and that there's always someone in the stands anticipating that what we write is bound to be all net.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 9, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.

1 comment:

Matt Sinclair said...

Absolutely. In the same way, you know when it's not working. When the release point is simply off -- doesn't matter if it's a millimeter or a mile -- and the result is failure. That also translates to writing. But just as the well-practiced, experienced athlete knows to move -- and where to move -- to get the rebound, the writer can and should anticipate what sections need to be reworked.