When life throws curveballs…

… it might be best to remember this Wall Street Journal article from 2004, reporting on how curveballs have more home run potential.

For those who aren’t baseball fans, a curveball is so called because as it comes in toward the plate, it can look like a normal ball — only to plunge steeply at the last minute.

So it is with life. We think we see the incoming obstacle, but then it does something completely and totally unexpected. We might swing wildly and miss, or we might let it go by, only for it to be called a strike.

But sometimes, our eye is keen, and we see the incoming ball for what it is. Perhaps it’s just a lucky shot. But perhaps it’s also experience. We might know the pitcher is a curveballer, and maybe we’ve even studied his mechanics and where his curveballs fall in the strike zone, so that we know how to position ourselves to hit it.

Setting up to knock ‘em out

In the weeks since I blogged about my planning process for the year, my curveballs looked something like this:

  • A family emergency in which many of the logistics involved with assisting an elderly relative fell to me.
  • Flu: first my 13-year-old, then me.
  • Brainstorming — and writing — new article ideas that were not on my radar.
  • The evolution of the book project I mentioned last month… into something potentially much bigger (and, naturally, scarier).
  • New marketing clients, when I’d all but written marketing off as an income stream.

A thing that I’m learning to do is to recognize and then adapt in the present moment, wherever I am. I did this at the beginning of the month on the hiking trail, when an overexcited, unleashed 70lb. Rottweiler jumped on me. Unable to brace myself in enough time, I knew the moment I wouldn’t be able to recover my balance… and went with the fall.

So rather than complain about having flu, I went with my body’s need to rest. (And also picked up a Tamiflu prescription, since the household would’ve stopped running otherwise. Corollary: paid family medical leave needs to be a thing.)

Instead of grousing about the need to help my husband’s family member, I took it as an opportunity to practice grace, as well as better communication skills with both family and clients.

Rather than be rigid about the schedule I planned for myself, I went with timing that seemed right for pitching the new articles. It paid off in a request for an on-spec piece.

Instead of complaining that my colleagues weren’t immediately available to work on the new project with me, I took the time to think through and shore up my plan, including by reaching out to additional trusted advisors.

And rather than turn up my nose at marketing, I explored the possibilities with the new clients, completed an assignment, and learned a few new things.

Making room to take the shot

In the past I’ve crowded the plate, overrelying on the strike zone to deliver just the right hit. But that’s a good way to miss the zone entirely — or get hit by a pitch.

A big reason I took so much time planning last month, is how disparate all my different projects are. The two books I’m marketing this year couldn’t be more opposite one another: a second children’s chapter book, and the collection of dystopian novellas I’ve worked on for the past 4 years.

Of course, a good chunk of my marketing plans for these books includes more journalism — articles about conservation and humane coexistence, about the different social and political forces that influenced the development of my novellas.

One of the things that spooked me about the new project is how much deeper a dive it might be into journalism than I thought I’d committed to originally. Considering that I’d planned to spend a good chunk of the year marketing fiction, brainstorming this new thing was probably the biggest curveball of all.

But not making room for it at all felt like a mistake, too. So instead of crowding the plate and sticking to my original plan… I made room.

This involved two shifts in my thinking:

  • The realization, thanks to a conversation with a friend, that I’ve only ever written fiction when I burned out. It’s as if living or working in a way that isn’t true to myself dredges up some dark feelings which I then have to process. Of course, once processed, I’m on to brighter creative endeavors, and fiction again goes dormant in my mind.
  • I also discovered a new concept: Lichtenbergianism, or the process of productive creativity through procrastination. In other words, you procrastinate on some creative things by working on others. It’s a way of leaning into your own tendency to procrastinate, making it work for you.

It may still all fall apart, but I’ve got some great support from friends and colleagues, and I really do think it’s worth a shot. I hope to be able to update with more soon.

What I worked on this month

I made a foray into lifestyle writing for the new Plateau Magazine in Western North Carolina. This quarter’s issue includes two pieces from me:

I also recorded a podcast episode with BlackBag Technologies’ Sarah Edwards in conjunction with an article I wrote about forensic pattern of life analysis. Look for those coming in the next few weeks. Until then: batter up!

Image by Anne & Saturnino Miranda from Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.