To write a novel, you have to plant a lot of fields and navigate long streets. There are dynamic results and inspiration you get along the way. But it takes fitness to be present and time to get good.
Basketball, writing, and religion are the great through-lines of my personal narrative. By far, writing was the least developed of the three.
Then in February 1998, I stopped playing basketball. It was something I had done my whole life. One day, I said to myself,” I’M DONE.”
I had to let go of the personal and team dynamic: game winning shots at the buzzer, mysterious wins, connection to the other players and fans but also disappointing losses, injuries, fouls, mistakes.
But I wasn’t really done because I moved toward a new passion: fiction writing. And I never relinquished the love of basketball. My first project was writing a novel with basketball in it. I started the current novel right then (early 1998.) Little did I know what a journey this would be. I said I will be complete with this in 1999 and published by 2000 at the latest. There are larger mysterious forces in the universe and snags I encountered in this world of writing fiction! Here is the trouble, I didn’t know how to write fiction.
It takes years to develop skills and intuition. At least that’s the story of my writing journey.
I read recently that as skill level increases, less brainpower is used. So that tells me if you are laboring to use less of your brain, something else shows up: creativity, flow and greatness.
I still need help. Just yesterday, a long time writing instructor of mine I consulted with told me I have to change the names of two players Fernando Bunch and Lowell Hamilton in my novel. They are well-known (they helped Providence St. Mel’s win the state basketball championship in my home state (Illinois)) and real life people. I played against them several times in high school.
The most professional writers are those that are flexible so I agreed to change their names. I had this pair playing on the Prague Superliga team in the novel against the Svet team.
What fictional names could I come up with?
I brainstormed and decided on the names of these African-American stars. Within 24 hours (yesterday), I had them. Fernando Bunch, the cocky 5’-8” point guard wearing a black eye patch like a pirate, became Escalante Greenfield. A fictional name that works. At least my daughters and wife thought so. They said he sounded like a real person. That’s the best you can ask for in a novel.
As for the fictional name for Lowell Hamilton, the 6’-7” shot blocker and dunking wizard, who is hard to thwart for the protagonist, I created Darius Longstreet. Greenfield and Longstreet star as teammates on the villainous and, seemingly invincible, Prague A Titans in Working the Glass.
We are at our best when fully present to each other, our work, and to something deeper. And they transcend this narrow network of roads you see on the surface.
We are most ourselves when we are absorbed in those things truly worthy of us: creative work, good conversation, prayer. These all start to merge together like gernes have in 2014.