Shooting the Gaps

May 25, 2011

I’m a huge sports fan, and when the Cubs or Sox are actually good, I’m a huge baseball fan. I’m not sure there is another sport where each move, each pitch, each play can carry so much significance. Especially when you get the the playoffs.

Well if you’re building a good baseball team you need a few kinds of players. Of course you need a solid pitching rotation. You need a decent, if not good, bullpen. And you need good hitters. Most fans think that you have to have big boppers–home run hitters. And you do need power. But you also need guys who can just put the ball in play and get hits. Some of the best hitters in the history of baseball have not been huge home run guys, but knew how to find a way to get on base.

The way they do this is they “shoot the gaps.” That is to say they are so skilled in their hitting, so disciplined, that they can read the defensive alignment and poke the ball thru the gaps. I’m thinking of guys like Tony Gwynn, who rarely hit a home run, but always got hits. Pete Rose was another. Ichiro Suzuki is another. What they do looks easy, but is hard to do. It’s hard to discipline your at bat and find a way to position the ball exactly where you would like it on the field.

In a way, writing is like this. To be a good writer, to build an audience and platform, you need to “shoot the gaps.” What do I mean by this?

You shoot the gaps as a writer by applying your unique style, perspective, and voice to areas in the marketplace that aren’t being covered or perhaps aren’t being covered in particular genre. Let me explain. My friend, Ginger Kolbaba is editor of Christianity Today’s online magazine for women and their marriage channel. I know they that regularly look for good pieces to run. So let’s say you really like to write about marriage.

Well, you are more likely to get your piece published if you offer a unique take on a biblical concept of marriage. She’s inundated all day with “How I survived an affair” pieces or takes on the “love and respect” theme in Ephesians 5. But if you present a well-written, uniquely voiced piece on an aspect of marriage that perhaps they haven’t covered in CT’s marriage channel, you’re likely to get a look.

This is just one example. Maybe you have an idea for a novel. You read somewhere that Amish fiction is hot. It is. But because it’s hot and everyone’s writing on it, you’re going to need to find a unique take on the Amish in your fiction, or you won’t get noticed.

In other words, the way to get published to leverage your unique creativity and your unique voice to ideas and opinions in the marketplace. Think of yourself as a consumer. Think of the magazines or blogs you subscribe to. What causes you to open the magazine or click on the web article or blog post? A fresh take on a familiar subject.

And this is actually easier than you think. I suggest you start with your own story. You’re story of God’s work in your life is unique. You’re voice is unmistakeable. You’re ideas are fresh.

With every writing idea, you need to ask yourself the question, How can my piece fresh inspiration to someone who reads this?

Of course, not every idea of yours will sell. Most won’t. But many will. And if you do this over the course of your life, you’ll find others willing to invest in, read, and appreciate your work.