Hi, I’m Matt Tillotson and this is The Mix Tape, a newsletter with ideas mixed at the intersection of writing and sports. This week:
🔍Write to recover your identity
☀️Nothing new under the sun, and it’s no excuse
🥇Write for yourself first
💡The right idea, in the wrong order
Write to recover your identity
[Photo: WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays]
Ryan Thompson achieved his dreams but lost himself.
He became a major league baseball player. He pitched in the World Series last fall with the Tampa Bays Rays.
But just days after the World Series, he suffered a breakdown:
“I was in the middle of a flight, and I cannot explain it,” Thompson said. “I just had a breakdown. Everything just hit me at once. ... I’ve never cried in public before, and it just hit me.
Thompson sacrificed his values and identity in pursuit of his dream.
So he started writing.
He found catharsis in an unlikely place — writing. He bought a laptop and started typing what he was feeling, quickly filling nearly 100 pages about his path to the majors, journey as a Christian, now on-again relationship with Ranucci (a former Astros athletic trainer he started dating after he left for the Rays) and how all three stories intersect.
Now Thompson’s writing a book about his experiences.
We don’t write when we know what we think. We write to discover what we think, what we feel, to make sense of the events in our lives. We write to discover a path back to ourselves, or to forge a path to a new self.
And when we find the bravery to share our struggles and insights, we help those around us make sense of their own thoughts, feelings, and lives as well.
On creative regret
I spoke in Monday’s Write of Passage session about creative regret.
In 2003, I taught myself Microsoft Front Page and started a blog.
I wrote a few posts.
I abandoned it.
A couple years later, Typepad came along. I started a blog.
I wrote a few posts.
I abandoned it.
A few years after that, Squarespace came along. I started a blog.
I wrote a few posts a year, at best, for nearly a decade.
My creative output was routinely frozen by impostor syndrome and fear of judgement.
That’s nearly 20 years of caving into fear.
Twenty years of worrying about what might happen if my CEO, or a boss, or a client, or colleague read what I wrote.
I speak to very few those people today.
Their opinions never mattered.
What did I lose by letting fear triumph over creation?
Who are the awesome people I never met because I didn’t write consistently?
What opportunities never materialized?
I’ll never know.
We write—we create—because our hearts have something to express. It’s bigger than us.
A student in the course, Christian Röpke, wrote a poem based on what I shared:
The best thing about creative regret: It’s curable.
I write more consistently now, thanks to Write of Passage.
You can create today. You can write or draw or take photos. Today.
And you can create again tomorrow.
Create. Keep creating.
There’s nothing new under the sun, and it’s no excuse
Baseball’s “Moneyball 2.0” data revolution is fueled by cutting-edge motion capture technology. The data recorded helps players make adjustments that lead to more effective movements.
Batters refine their swings. Pitchers find greater velocity and add new pitches to their arsenal. Fielders take more efficient routes to the baseball.
Advanced technology makes it all possible. Except pitcher Mike Marshall was doing this in 1967:
BP: Where did all your ideas come from? You were studying kinesiology while you pitched, did it happen then?
MM: I learned all this starting in '67, pitching for the Tigers at the time. I took high-speed film of pitching, 400 frames a second. I was watching myself throwing a breaking ball. The next thing I knew, after throwing, my forearm pronated all the way out. My point is, your forearm's going to pronate no matter what you do, so why not do it more, if you won't get hurt doing it, it increases your velocity, and lets you achieve, say, better spin for a curveball.
This is why I get so exasperated when someone says, “I can’t write about that. It’s already been said.”
Yes. Yes it has. “It’s all been done,” as the Barenaked Ladies once advised us.
But you haven’t written about the subject yet. No one has experienced the topic through the unique lens of your experience and communication style.
So, no, it hasn’t been done. Your excuse to avoid the creative work is invalid.
Write for yourself first
Start with an audience of one: you.
Maria Popova writes the wildly successful Brain Pickings newsletter, which has millions of readers each month.
She writes Brain Pickings for herself:
“Write for yourself. If you want to create something meaningful and fulfilling, something that lasts and speaks to people, the counterintuitive but really, really necessary thing is that you must not write for people.”
Morgan Housel, partner at The Collaborative Fund and a former columnist at The Motley Fool and The Wall Street Journal, does the same.
In a guest speaker session in Write of Passage, Housel said:
I just want to write stuff that I personally would be interested in reading. That's why I call it selfish writing … I'm only writing for an audience of one. It’s just me.
It’s funny how the universe pummels you with a certain message at certain times. The universe has been beating me over the head with “Write for yourself” lately.
Write about the ideas you want to explore. Write the thing you want to read. The right people will come along on your journey.
The right idea, in the wrong order
This is Finn (left) and Lucy (right). You might think they are hanging out together in this photo. But really, it’s just Finn hanging out with Lucy.
We got Lucy in 2013. My wife plucked her off the side of a two-lane highway. No collar, no chip, cigarette burns in her fur.
Lucy’s been with us ever since.
In 2015, my wife and daughters decided Lucy “needed a friend.”
Enter the excitable and anxiety-ridden Finn.
It turns out Lucy didn’t need a “friend.” She often looks at us as if to say, “Why?” as Finn antagonizes her. He’s the annoying little brother.
But Finn needs her. He sticks close by, when Lucy lets him.
Sometimes we have the right idea but in the wrong order.
It was Finn who needed a friend. It’s just that Lucy came to us first.
Hello to 5 new subscribers this week!
As always, thank you for reading and sharing.
Please hit reply if you have questions, comments, or open rebuttals. (Or just want to say hi.)
Great newsletter Matt! I read and re-read this line a few times: “We don’t write when we know what we think. We write to discover what we think.” Thank you - that will be my manta the next time I get stuck!
"Write for yourself first." Love that.