I don’t know much about Barry Bonds. I have a peripheral understanding of who he is and why he matters. He’s a polarizing figure who should be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, right? Or not. That’s about all I know.
Sports aren’t my thing, with two exceptions: I get caught up in the short-term melodrama of the Olympics, and I still think about Tim Tebow more often than he or I are probably comfortable with. There aren’t many athletes, past or present, about whom I care too much. The discipline required to be an athlete enthralls me, though. The notion of practicing every day to get better at a skill. I’m closing in on a decade of calling myself a writer, and for most of that time it has taken a looming deadline and an act of God to get me to plant my ass in the chair and write.
Early one day last week, I was supposed to be writing. This means I had done everything else: emptied the trash cans, heated water for a Neti pot. I alphabetized the stack of books that I would return, unread, to the library a few days later. Before I was able to write, all I needed to do was spend a few hours passively scrolling through tweets. As I did, I found a link to a blog post called My 25 Favorite Barry Bonds Facts.
2,000 words of baseball statistics I didn’t care about. I read the whole thing. Why? Well, as I told you, it was a writing day, and I’d probably read a Victor Hugo-length book of baseball stats if it saved me from the anxiety of writing even five words for myself.
But it also showed me how great it is to watch someone love a thing, even if you don’t love that thing yourself. It seems as thought Barry Bonds was (is?) very good at baseball. Probably good enough that he had to practice occasionally. Seriously, this writer loves him. From the intro to his post:
“The career of Barry Bonds is an infinite gold mine of mind-blowing statistical miracles; there’s a favorite Bonds fact for each and every one of us.”
This line triggered my deep-seated need to belong (Every one of us? EVERY ONE OF US? Why don’t I have a favorite Barry Bonds fact? Am I irrelevant? Am I…not one of us?), but the author’s enthusiasm kicked my ass. I don’t know anything about baseball, but loving a thing obsessively? That I can do on an elite level.
What’s your infinite gold mine of mind-blowing miracles? For me, it’s musicals. I am easily infatuated; musical theater was my earliest infatuation. For as long as I’ve written, I’ve wanted to write about musicals. I could write My 25 Favorite Audra McDonald Moments in Ragtime or My 25 Favorite Emotions I Feel When Betty Buckley Stands Up From A Squat To Belt That Last Verse In “Memory.”
It’s a dream I’ve shied away from, because of my inner critic. You know the one.
This is stupid.
This won’t win you fans and followers.
This has been done before.
This has never been done, and there’s a good reason.
You never finish anything.
This won’t get you published.
This won’t make you matter.
That’s the fear, right? Not mattering? It’s what terrifies me the most.
Inspiration works in strange ways. Barry Bonds and his biggest fan gave me a reminder: get started. Now.
I imagined Barry whispering in my ear: “No one is going to come along and give you permission or a blessing. No one is going to save you from hard work, negative feedback, or the fear that you’re wasting your time. It sounds awfully damn sad to me that you wouldn’t make the thing you want to make, just because you’re afraid people might laugh at you.”
“Loving something deeply is a privilege,” he continued in my mind. “So is the chance to connect with other people. Having your basic needs met so you can afford to sit around and wring your hands about making shit is a privilege.”
In my imagination, Barry Bonds is a whisperer who uses strong language.
“Now get out there and get the fuck after it,” he said, before disappearing into a field of tall cornstalks.
For the last five months, I’ve been working on a book and a stage show about the musicals that have shaped my life. I’m ready to start sharing bits and pieces of the work as it progresses. I plan on doing that here on this blog.
I’m afraid you’ll think this is stupid or boring. That’s what the inner critic keeps telling me. Even though it’s worlds away from what the author of that Barry Bonds post had in mind—I think he’s just a guy who loves baseball?—it was a great reminder that I need to feel the fear and just do it anyway.
If you’re interested in following along with this project, I’d love to have you. You can stop by from time to time, or sign up here if you’d like occasional email updates—no more than one a week.
If you’re not interested, that’s okay too. Find your own infinite gold mine and, like imaginary Barry says, get the fuck after it.