By Alton Gansky
When I was in my early 30s, I had a standing racquetball game with the Church of Christ pastor across from the Baptist church I served. Our doctrine didn’t line up exactly but we did share a love for the Lord and racquetball. I seldom missed a game and played the best I could. Partly because I would tell him he would win more games if he got his doctrine straight. It was a good time of fellowship and friendly ribbing.
One day, we arrived at the courts, paid our money, and went to our assigned court. The door was closed and I could hear other players inside knocking the ball around. Not unusual. Sometimes a set of players needs a volley or two to finish a game.
I waited until I heard play stop and tapped on the door with my racquet. A moment later I heard one of the players serve and another round was underway. Okay, maybe they needed one more round to finish up. Again, I waited until the sound of grunting and the ball hitting the concrete walls stopped and tapped on the door again.
And again another serve. Now I was steamed. They were ignoring us. Forget us, they were ignoring me. When the volley ended I let loose on the door, pounding it with my racquet with enough force to be heard six courts down.
There was silence, then the door opened. There, in the doorway, was a Buick. Well, not a car really, but a man who could pass for one. His head was just an inch below the top of the doorframe. After a decade in architecture, I knew that meant the guy was over six-foot-six. This shoulders brushed against the door jamb. His chiseled face gave me the idea that he might be a tad irritated. Sounds, after all, do echo in a racquetball court.
I stared at him; he stared at me. So this is how it all ends. I stood my ground, mostly because my feet wouldn’t move. I glanced at my partner who had migrated several courts down and looked like he was outlining a funeral message.
My eyes met the beast in the doorway again and prayed for a sling and five smooth stones. “Um, it’s three o’clock,” I squeaked. “I tapped a couple of times—”
“Three? Really?” His faced ripened to a nice red. “I’m sorry, man, we just lost track of time. I didn’t mean to step on your court time.”
I cleared my throat. Twice. “No, um, no problem. I understand.” My heart restarted.
A few moments later they left and the court was mine. I wobbled into the court a moment before I assumed would be my tomb.
“That was great, Al. I didn’t know he played here.”
He gave me a name. “He plays for the San Diego Chargers. Frontline. Other players say being hit by him is like being run over by a Mac truck.” He paused, then, “Al, why are you sitting on the floor?”
Impatience is one of my problems. It is also the problem of many writers. Publishing is a slow business. It’s not unusual to hear of projects taking years to develop before hitting the shelves. Often things move more quickly but never fast enough for the writer. This business moves at glacial speeds. It takes time to develop an idea, to write the article or book manuscript. Agents and editors are overwhelmed with work, publishing schedules are laid out a couple of years in advance. It takes time for publishers to edit, design the interior of a book, get a cover done, print and distribute. I’ll say it again: It’s a slow business.
Here’s the thing: Banging on the door won’t change things for the better. It might change things for the worse. Yes, a writer needs to keep track of the time. Article writers often keep a diary of who has what article and when they received it just in case they have to put a bug in the editor’s ear. Things do get lost. Still patience is a requirement in this biz.
"Patience, for guys like me,
is an acquired talent."
Patience, for guys like me, is an acquired talent. I wasn’t born with it, I had to learn it and develop it like a muscle. It’s still a problem for me. Probably always will be. My impatience changes nothing. Oh sure, there are times when I’ve had to check on the status of a project, but there are more professional ways of doing that than banging on a metal door with a racquet.
We live in a fast food, Internet connected, smartphone world, but business still takes time, and as hard as it is to hear, I am not the only working writer in the business. And neither are you.
If we start off knowing this, then we can plan our careers better and more successfully. So before you go around making a racket with a racquet like I did at the racquetball club so many years ago, take a step back and see if there isn’t a better way.
Who knows what lurks on the other side of the door.
Alton Gansky is the director of the BRMCWC and the author of numerous novels and nonfiction books. He is also know for making narrow escapes from his own stupidity. www.altongansky.com