Monday, November 21, 2011

An excellent anecdote - and antidote - for starving writers

As I watch the Chiefs play (surprisingly) decent football against the New England Patriots, I am also reading a collection of boxing short stories by F.X. Toole. The collection, published in 2000 under the title "Rope Burns," but since then it's been re-named after its most famous short story: "Million Dollar Baby."

I haven't reached the well-known tale just yet, but I was intrigued by the introduction. Toole, a former boxer, trainer and corner man, for years worked to break into the writing biz. He accomplished it with this story collection in 2000, but sadly passed away just two years later. This is the best boxing fiction I've read outside of W.C. Heinz' classic "The Professional."

Here's a brilliant passage from the introduction comparing Toole's two passions, which should ring true to all you aspiring writers out there hoping to make money at it someday.

I started in the amateurs, took nights off from my job so I could work three-rounders in VFW halls, recreation centers, and the back rooms of spaghetti joints. Then four-rounders, and ten, and traveling around the world to work twelve-round title fights. I've worked seven title fights of one kind or another, and I've been licensed in ten states - from Hawaii to New York, from Missouri to Florida. There are plenty of guys who have done much more in boxing than I, but there are many who've done less. And I've fought in Mexico, France, Germany and South Africa - where, in Cape Town, by the way, they produce a champion Cabernet Sauvignon, Fleur de Cap, that will do wonders for your spirit.

About the only thing I haven't done in boxing is make money. It's the same for most fight guys. But that hasn't stopped me any more than not making money in writing has. Both are something you just do, and you feel grateful for being able to do them, even if both keep you broke, drive you crazy, and make you sick. Rational people don't think like that. But they don't have in their lives what I have in mine. Magic. The magic of going to wars I believe in. And the magic of boxing humor, the joke almost always on the teller, that marches with you every step of the way.

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