Sunday, August 16, 2009
A Member of the Field
As I watch the amazing play and the wide cast of characters in the PGA Championships, I can't help but consider what it means for those stalwart players who make up the field of virtually faceless names that stalk the leader board. Sure we all know who Tiger Woods is. And Tom Watson. And Jack Nicklaus. And Vijay Singh. We all have our eye on Padraig Harrington who seems almost unflappable playing alongside Tiger. But what about Zach Johnson or Steve Flesch or Camillo Villegas? Okay, Villegas (aka Spiderman) is a hottie and an up-and-comer, but for now he is a member of the field.
I wonder about these guys who love golf and are thrilled to get to play, even if they never win the PGA or the Masters or the British Open. They get to play golf for a living, something they love. They get to keep coming to the golf course every week, continue to hone their skills, and perhaps even snag an occasional win or challenge the greats in the last round of a major. They aren't as famous as the big names, but they are always there. They make fabulous contributions to the game in their own quiet way, without the glare of the spotlight or the excessive pressures of sponsorship that the big names face. Are they happy? They have gotta be.
So what does this have to do with writing? As I launch my career as a writer, I see many of my colleagues making their way through the field. Some of my Blue Boarding buddies are catapulting to the top and finding visible success like Maggie Stiefvater, who not only got a starred review but also just hit the NYT Bestsellers list with Shiver, or Fran Cannon Slayton who is getting rave reviews and touring the country with her debut novel When the Whistle Blows, while others are quietly publishing their amazing books, getting fan mail and glowing reviews, and writing—happily writing—almost every day. They may not win the Newbery or the Printz or a National Book Award. But they are crafting stories and building a life doing something they love.
Do they all want fame and fortune? I doubt it. If they are like me, they want to tell their stories, they want to bring something to kids that has meaning. They want to make reading personal. They want to create. There are so many reasons that writers do what they do and to try to quantify them would not only be impossible, but it would be utterly foolish.
Do I daydream about great reviews and sometime writing something award-worthy. Absolutely! But that's not why I write. That is a goal, but not a reason. Afterall, in many ways, the striving is the true reward. For all you jaded folks out there in blogland, I apologize if that seems too idealistic. But writing in itself is a process, not a product. It's my daily workout, my passion, my teacher, my inspiration. I can look out with genuine admiration and hopeful emulation at people like Neil Gaiman, Libba Bray, Jennifer Donnelly, and Jerry Spinelli and think Wow! I would love to get to that place. Will I be a failure if I never get there? Absolutely NOT. If I am one of the field of writers who gets to do what she loves (and maybe even get paid for it), that is the dream. That is my job.