I’ve never had the privilege and honor of meeting Tommy Lasorda.
Maybe I will someday.
But the man changed my life with a book he wrote with David Fisher, called THE ARTFUL DODGER.
For those not in the know, Tommy Lasorda was the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 17 years. He got them to a couple of world championships and more than a few division titles. Many call him “Baseball’s Goodwill Ambassador.” The book is a memoir about his days first as a pitcher for the Dodgers, and then later on a scout and a minor league manager and then a major league coach. And then, eventually, manager of the Dodgers.
But the book also covers a lot of his philosophy, and it’s those philosophies that impacted me so much that I became a fan of the Dodgers.
One of those philosophies is that, in this country, you can have anything you want as long as you’re willing to do the work. This doesn’t mean just working hard, but it means working wisely, with a plan in mind. An end goal. For me it was being a professional western and mystery writer. It means persevering. It means not allowing any setbacks to cause long-lasting discouragement.
Thanks largely to this one lesson, I persevered. I worked hard. One problem I had was that when it came to the publishing industry, I was on the outside looking in. I loved to write and wanted to earn my living writing, but I knew nothing about publishing. So I began working at a bookstore to learn the business of publishing from the ground up. I took some college courses and learned how business worked in general. I learned about sales, and that in every industry, sales is the entire crux of the business. No sales equals no business. I learned about presentation. I learned not to be afraid of hard work, but to make sure the work I was doing got me further along the path to being a full-time professional writer.
During the course of all of this, I wrote the rough draft that became the novel THE LONG TRAIL, the first in my McCabes series. But knowing something about the publishing industry and business in general wasn’t enough. I had to learn how to actually write.
But, you might say, I had just written the first draft to a novel. As I bought books on writing and read WRITER’S DIGEST magazine, I learned that writing the first draft is only the first step. It’s all about imagination and creativity. But then comes the second and third drafts. And additional drafts. Editing and revising.
Many folks think editing means scanning for typos, but in reality, editing means taking a rough draft with what appears sometimes to be little more than chaos, and chopping it up into paragraphs and scenes. Making the dialogue work. Making sure the grammar reads smoothly but not necessarily correctly.
It’s surprising to many (it was to me) to learn that sometimes the picture-perfect grammar we learn in school reads kind of stiffly in a fiction narrative. The narrative has to flow smoothly, even if it means dropping an adverb or skipping a whom. After all, effective writing isn’t writing that would pass a high school English teacher’s standards. Effective writing moves you emotionally, or transports you to another time or place. It allows you to step into the shoes of someone else. Like my main character, Johnny McCabe. He’s a former gunfighter in his early forties, with three adult sons and a nearly adult daughter. He’s a widower who left behind his gunslinging ways, but still suffers a little PTSD from being shot at one time too many. He and his kids run a cattle ranch in Montana, and sometimes elements from Johnny’s past catch up with him.
I now have five books published in my McCabe series. All have been on various Amazon best-seller lists, and are available at that site or at my website, for Kindles and Kindle readers. THE LONG TRAIL has now also been released in large-print paperback, and is available on Amazon or at any bookstore where new books are sold.
All of this was has become possible because of a path that began when I read Tommy Lasorda’s book, and learned his philosphy. It’s worth repeating. In this country, you can have anything you want, as long as you’re willing to do the work.
You sit around and whine about what you don’t have, and you’ll never have what you want. You allow yourself to be filled with envy for those who have what you want, and you’ll never have it. Be grateful for what you have, and identify what you want, create a plan for getting it, and go to it. Work hard and work smart.
If I ever get to meet Tommy Lasorda, I’m going to shake his hand and say thanks.
Tommy has said if you cut him, he bleeds Dodger blue. Me too.