Saturday, September 11, 2021

Ignore the Scoreboard: A Writing Process

Scott D. Parker

The NFL season kicked off on Thursday of this week, but I was already prepared because of Peter King.

For many years now, a NFL weekend is not complete until I read King’s Monday column. And they are long. Wonderfully so. He covers the weekend’s action, what he’s reading, what beer he likes, tales from the road, and other non-sports pieces as well in a segment he dubs “10 Things I Think I Think.”

On Monday, King commented on a recent article with Nick Saban, the head football coach at Alabama.

“I think I learned something about Nick Saban in his enlightening interview with Alan Blinder of the New York Times. Saban’s a lot more malleable as a coach than I thought. Listen to him about how his approach to coaching has changed:

“The biggest thing that has changed for me — and you might be shocked when I say this — is that I’ve actually become, through the years and through the experiences, a lot less outcome-oriented and a lot more process-oriented. I think that approach carries over to the players because then they become less outcome-oriented, and they’re more focused on process, they’re more focused on one play at a time, exactly what do I have to do and how do I have to do it, what’s going to help me be successful here, and they’re not looking at the scoreboard like we’ve got to win the game. They’re focusing on one play at a time.”

King then continued:

“I think that reminds me so much of what Drew Brees told me a couple of years ago, when I asked him what advice he’d have for your quarterbacks. In effect, Brees said, Ignore the scoreboard. Think about making every play the best it can be. Worrying about the scoreboard distracts from the only thing you can control—the next play. Great advice for football, and for life.”

And great advice for us writers.

The scoreboard for us is when the book is published and some of us might obsess about Amazon reviews or how our book is doing with readers. All things we cannot control and over which we have zero power.

To keep the football analogy going, the next play for us writers could be something as small as the next chapter or as large as the next book. Keep your focus localized to your own work and let the scoreboard take care of itself.

Because every now and then, you’ll fumble the ball and produce a book folk won’t enjoy even if you loved it and poured your heart into it. But at the same time, there will be those days when you publish a story everyone loves and the confetti will cascade down from the rafters.

Be mindful of both moments.

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