Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Million Words

"They" say that career-ending disaster strikes when someone is promoted up to their level of incompetence.

But I think it’s less a case of rising too far and more a case of just too fast.

Consider this, from Buzz Bissinger’s New York Times profile of Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood:

"Although the act of pitching a baseball repeatedly is exceedingly stressful, doctors now generally accept that it is not the act itself that causes injury nearly so much as pitching while fatigued. …

"The tried-and-true method of preventing young pitchers from throwing when they are fatigued has been to keep them on strict pitch counts in the minor leagues -- 100 pitches per game has become something of an industry standard. ... [But] pitch counts prevent young pitchers from learning to pitch while tired, to pace themselves during a game, to get out of jams without simply handing the ball to the bullpen. …

"Instead, too many young pitchers, particularly those who have attracted media attention, come up to the majors too soon and feel an obligation to go full bore all the time. They are constantly reaching back for extra velocity, and if they are doing it as fatigue begins to set in, the possibility of their arms breaking down only multiplies."

Similarly, in the New Yorker article Fallen Idols (abstract online), David Denby makes a case for the 20th century’s movie-studio contract system over today’s free-agency:

"Seventy years ago, these actors would have been tested in a variety of small roles or B-movies -- tested to see whether both they could act and whether the audience perked up when they came onscreen. They would have been allowed to grow slowly. Now they are thrown into big roles in expensive movies, and they’re forced to overdraw on themselves before their temperament has found the right shape. They don’t know the camera yet, and the camera doesn’t always find much in their faces."

Reading two such similar cautions should perk up writers to the message for our own work. We learn the craft of writing; then we need to stay buckled down, doing the daily pages -- practicing the techniques one by one and in combination, practicing them when we're fresh and through fatigue, and noticing the effects on readers.

"They" also say that it takes a million notes to make a musician.

And a million words to make a writer.

No comments:

Post a Comment