Life is like publishing a book (part I)

Book publishing teaches many life lessons.

Book publishing teaches many life lessons.

What motivates people to make changes in their lives? Why is it that some people embrace self-improvement and personal growth, while others stay stuck in the same old rut?

As mentioned before, I was stuck in self-defeating patterns of behavior for a good chunk of my young adult life. Even in my early 30s, when I began looking for answers not bound by spiritual precepts, I had a hard time accepting the power our minds hold over us. Often, how we think, and what we choose to fill our heads with sabotages the best laid plans.

I still marvel that at 42, I decided I was going to write a book. Not just any book, mind you, but a first of its kind book on the history of town team baseball in Maine. What prompted me to believe I could pull this off? I had no previous track record of success similar to what I was planning to tackle, either. Sometimes if you’re going to be bold, just pull out all the stops and go for it.

Once in awhile, the stars align around our ideas when we latch onto an unwavering belief that we can do something. There are famous examples of late bloomers, one of them being Colonel Harland Sanders and his chicken recipe.

Once I had my idea, fueled by a belief that I could make it happen, then came the challenge of assembling the parts. In my case, it would be the interviews with men who had played the game of baseball in small towns all across the state of Maine.

As I began my first tentative research at Portland Public Library, the reference librarian directed me to the Portland Room, which at that time was on the library’s second floor. There resided a collection of Maine-related books and other periodicals.

Having some vague sense of where we want to go is often the first in a series of tentative steps that we take towards our not completely-formed goal luring us onward. Then, we begin making connections–sometimes it’s with people. For me, it was the book, Yours In Sports; A History of Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, and Bowling In Maine, by Don McWilliams.

McWilliams, a former television sportscaster, authored a book that provided a fairly comprehensive rundown of baseball, basketball, boxing and candlepin bowling in the state. In fact, as I thumbed through the book one morning in the summer of 2004, I thought how the author could have taken anyone of these subjects and written an entire book on them. Instead, he decided to enlist a scatter shot approach.

I learned a lesson from that experience, vowing not to short-change my subject and try to be as thorough as I could on my selected brand of baseball.

While Mr. McWilliams chose to merely scratch the surface on Maine’s rich and varied baseball history, he left me a name and familiar reference point. The name was Ted Ionta. Ionta was referenced in a section about the Norway-Paris team that made a trip to the National Amateur Baseball World Series Tournament in Battle Creek, Michigan. The year was 1960.

I knew Ted as “Bitsy.”  Back in my mid-20s when I was still throwing fastballs by hitters in the Pine Tree League, “Bitsy” was in his 50s and pitching effectively, albeit for an inning or two usually, with the one of our chief rivals, the Rumford Pirates.

Bitsy became my first real viable human contact for the book. An interview conducted at his home in Dixfield pointed me in the right direction, and led to making another contact. Then, another name was produced, phone calls were made. It wasn’t uncommon to hit a dead-end, and there were points, especially in the beginning, when the research was very labor-intensive; basically, it was one reel of microfilm at a time, looking back at old box scores from Maine newspapers from the 50s and 60s (the period I began with in my research).

Once we are committed to our idea and we embrace it, at some point, momentum begins to take over. After a few months of being doggedly determined to compile research and begin making sense of it all, connections began to materialize in ways that I knew weren’t accidental. Call it fate, call it something akin to divine guidance, mere chance wouldn’t have made this book happen.

Next week, I’ll look at what happens when you think your idea is the equivalent of sliced bread and then you run smack into a brick wall.