By Martha Reed
A rare and wonderful thing happened to me on Friday – my short story PASTURES OF HEAVEN was accepted by Mysterical-e for their Summer issue. This was a bit of a surprise; I really like POH, but it is a little odd, not my usual style, and I wasn’t sure it would ever get placed. Which only goes to show that there’s a home for everything if you research the marketplace and keep trying.
When I sat down to my Mac on Friday night and opened my email, I saw the reply from Mysterical-e and found myself performing a new-to-me ritual before I opened the message. It might even have been a little prayer. I paused, my fingers hovering inches over the touchpad and said: “Be the right club, today!” Then I closed my eyes and imagined an acceptance before I opened my eyes to actually read their words. Lucky for me, this time the word was ‘Yes’ and I yelped so loudly I’m sure my neighbors on Fourth Street heard me. The yelp was followed by my version of a boogie dance that should probably remain closed to viewing for reasons of public safety – the vision of me jumping around victorious would probably scar young children.
I also wondered, the more I thought about it, where I pulled the phrase ‘Be the right club, today!’? I remember watching some golf on TV, and I went online to look it up, and there is was: Hal Sutton, 17th hole, The Players Championship 2000. Hal had a one stroke lead on Tiger Woods (imagine that pressure) and when Hal hit a shot and the ball sailed toward the green he commanded: “Be the right club, today!” (emphasis on today, Hal’s from Alabama). Now, I understand completely what Hal was trying to do; it was the same thing I tried to do with my story: he was focusing his will on the outcome to achieve the positive outcome he wanted – and he was focused enough to disregard the many outside factors (including Tiger Woods standing next to him) that he had no control over.
Baseball players are a superstitious lot, too, but this new ritual of mine made me wonder: how about writers? Does anyone out there have a superstition and/or ritual they feel compelled to follow or perform before writing, submitting, or opening that dread reply?
Usually, we plan, and execute, and do our best, and then we sit back to let events take their natural course. But every once in awhile – and is it just during competition? – we try to will a positive end result like it’s some kind of magical thinking. I’ve done it; last Friday was the perfect example. I didn’t want it; I willed it, and on Friday I felt it, and it felt like I was tapping into an energy grid where a positive outcome was already pre-determined in my favor. Was this a gamblers high? Willing that acceptance didn’t feel arbitrary or capricious; it felt powerful and compelling. Has anyone else experience this?