We always hear those usual clichés about writing: "Write what you know," "Write what you love," "Write what you feel," and so forth. This is good advice, but a little too simplified for my liking. I am always skeptical about advice that can make a good bumper sticker, so I like to explore it a little. In a previous post, "Write What You Know? Really?" I took on that first saying and expanded upon where I think it really had value. Now let's look at the second quote (which will also include the third one - how convenient).
What comes to mind when I say, "I am going to write about baseball." That's what I'm supposed to do, right? Write about what I love - baseball. Well, the problem with truly loving something (or someone) is that you love most everything about it. I love pitching strategies from batter to batter. An around-the-horn double play is one of the most exciting plays you'll see in any given game. Despite the steroids scandal, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball in 1998. And don't even get me started about the designated hitter rule - if you bring it up, I hope you packed a lunch because it'll be a while.
If you haven't figured it out, that's a lot to write about. Furthermore, none of it actually goes together. Writing all of that would just be dumping a bunch on info into a big word salad on the page. Frankly, that doesn't make you a better writer. What does help your process is drilling into one of the examples, and discussing it with passion and intensity. Don't discuss everything about baseball, but rather write about a particular aspect through the filter of love. Be passionate but focused, and remain on target throughout the piece.
If I wanted to discuss my love of the sport, I would take one of the subjects I mentioned - let's say the double-play - and let my intensity follow through. I would mention how in a short five seconds from the moment the bat hits the ball, the ball will travel over ninety feet to the third baseman, who then has to spin and throw it another seventy-eighty feet to second base where another infielder meets it while simultaneously tagging second base, catches the ball, switches it to his hand and throws it another ninety feet to first base before the batter tags the bag. I would explore this bang-bang play and all the action it contains, probably in 3-5 paragraphs, exploring details with passion and interest. I would let the writing broadcast my love of the subject. That is how we write what we love.
So, the next time you decide to write about something you love, give it a tight focus and then pour your heart into it. And hopefully, make it about baseball.