Did that title make you wonder how in the world those things can be related?
Well, allow me to explain how they are.
First, the spit bubbles. I learned to launch spit bubbles off my tongue when I was in college from a suitemate who had this remarkable talent. I was fascinated and begged her to teach me how. And she did, patiently demonstrating until I got the hang of it as we whiled away our afternoons in the dorm. (Of all the things I learned in college, this is perhaps the single skill I still use most often. It both fascinates and repels my family and friends.)
The thing about the spit bubbles is sometimes they launch off my tongue like they're supposed to, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the spit bubbles fly through the air, sailing through the holes on my steering wheel like a goal post as I drive. And I wish I could consistently be that good, that my talent could always be counted on. But that's not the case. It's different almost every time.
This past Saturday I sat in yet another set of bleachers and watched yet another child's sporting event. This one was baseball. I watched as the 11 year old pitcher sailed a ball at just the right speed at just the right angle over home plate, whizzing by the stunned batter as he sat motionless. One of the parents hollered out that this 11 year old pitcher "Just needed to do it like that, every time." And I swear I saw the boy's shoulders slump ever so slightly as the parent called out this "helpful" comment. The boy knew he couldn't do it just like that, every time. His pitches are different every time. Same mound, same glove, same ball, same arm. Different result.
I feel like that pitcher sometimes where my writing is concerned. Readers tell me "Just do it like that, every time." And of course, that's what I want. With this new book that launches this summer it's the same setting, same author, same genre: but a very different story. I'm not sure I can sail this one over home plate, send it flying into the air like my spit bubbles. Instead the ball might end up somewhere I never meant for it to go. The spit bubble might pop before it's even left my mouth. When I start thinking that way, my shoulders slump too. I wish there were guarantees to what I'm doing. That one good book meant another good book. That one good pitch meant another good pitch. That one soaring spit bubble meant many more to come.
I think that's the part of our life's work that is the moving target. Each day, each effort, each time we do something seems to yield different results. Same mom, same house, same kids: different behaviors. Same yard, same kinds of plants, same basic weather patterns: different garden. Same recipe, same ingredients, same oven: different cooking result. Same paper, same paint, same idea: different piece of art.
I take comfort in knowing that I don't face the moving target alone. I might be the only one reading this who can launch spit bubbles off my tongue, but I'm not the only one who wants to do something well, and tries with all my heart to soar, even knowing that some of my efforts will fail. But like that pitcher, that doesn't stop me from hitching up my shoulders and throwing that next ball. It is the hope that I will produce another perfect pitch that puts me back on the mound time and again.