I have been a New York Knicks fan for a long time. Very long. About twenty years, since the time Pat Riley joined the team as coach (before he became the enemy). And, coincidentally, the same amount of time, more or less, that I’ve been a professional writer. Last night’s crushing loss to the Boston Celtics made me realize how similar being a Knicks fan is to being a writer.
- It’s unbelievably stressful at times. When Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith go cold, as they did last night, it’s excruciating. Nothing is working. The ball goes in the air and you think, this is it, and then it bounces off the rim and is rebounded by the other team. I know that feeling as a writer, when the words just aren’t coming. You try and you try, but you just can’t make that basket. It sucks. Sisyphus has nothing on you.
- It’s unbelievably glorious at times. When Anthony or Smith or Raymond Felton scores a three-pointer at the buzzer or can’t miss a shot, it’s heaven. The basketball gods are smiling on you, birds are singing, the sky is filled with sunshine. Same as true when the words are flowing, as a writer. I become Spike Lee standing up from his courtside seat, pumping my fists.
- The road is looong. The Knicks haven’t won a championship in forty years. And when I tell you it’s been almost 20 years since we even PLAYED in a basketball championship, you should know that I have felt every one of those twenty years. A writing career is similar, filled with starts and stops, disappointments and victories, ups and downs. Accepted pitches and rejection letters come in the same day. Even, like the Knicks, my players have changed over the years — many of the magazines and websites I wrote for five years ago have folded or ceased operation, new ones taking their places. Every year is essentially a new season. Sure, there’s no championship to be had in writing — unless, of course, you’re vying for the Pulitzer and, hey, why not? — but it is goal-oriented. You want to get a piece in THAT magazine or THAT anthology or get picked up by THAT publisher. You work toward achieving whatever goal or game winner there is.
- You never know what’s going to happen. All week, while everyone was out there cheering that the Knicks were up by three games in the series and there was “no way” we could lose, I was still a wreck. I think die-hard Knick fans know that of all the teams in the world, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it were US to be the first basketball team ever to lose four straight playoff games after winning the first three (my husband and dad keep bringing up when the Yankees did exactly that to the Red Sox). Nothing’s in the bag. And yet at any moment, Anthony can go on a tear, Tyson Chandler can stuff a basket, Steve Novak can hit a string of threes. And just when a writing day is not going well, I’ll get a great review for Baby Grand or be asked to speak at a university event. The momentum shifts, which leads me to…
- You never give up. I am always hopeful. For the Knicks, as we had back to Boston for tomorrow night’s Game 6 of the series. For my writing, as I query new editors and edit new scenes of my next novel. When my family (we watch the games together) cringe as the Knick lead starts to dwindle and my son or daughter mutters, “It’s over,” I’m always the one saying, “There’s still time! J.R. could get hot. Anthony might find his shot. Never give up!” And it’s true. Nerves aside, whether in basketball or in publishing, the game isn’t over until buzzer rings. And, lucky for me, in publishing, there is no buzzer.