Bad Advice Wednesday: Celebrate! (Or How I Won the U.S. Open)

categories: Cocktail Hour


celebrate 2I’ve always been jealous of the way tennis players act when they win tournaments. The way they hurl their racquets in the air, drop to their knees, lift their arms to sky, lie on their backs. The way they exult in a manner that you rarely see in other professions.


Writing, for instance.


It’s been my experience that almost every writing triumph, no matter how large or small, comes with some qualification. Trained to deal with rejection, we are wary of jubilation. We know that after the rise will come the fall. We temper triumphs with the word “But” followed by some discounting phrases. Our inner Bill Belichicks squash whatever celebration we hoped for.


But this August, watching the U.S. Open and witnessing players in the throes of joyous celebration, I decided I wanted some of it. I vowed that the next time something good happened I wouldn’t immediately reach for my qualifiers but would do a little reveling instead.

          As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long. Any writer who has been around for a while can cite instances of bad timing when it comes to selling their work, but this August I had the rare experience of good timing. My agent was getting ready to go out with a proposal for my book on Ultimate Frisbee, part memoir and part history, when the International Olympic Committee officially recognized Ultimate as a potential Olympic sport, spurring articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker.

There was still a chance the book wouldn’t fly of course. This was Ultimate after all. But on the day I was scheduled to find out, one way or another, what would happen with the book, I decided to throw my old tennis racquet in the car. I was taking my yellow lab for a walk in the woods when I heard from my agent, Peter Steinberg. The news was that I had an offer on the book from Riverhead, a press I loved. I gave a few fist pumps and yelled the word “yes” a bunch of times. But I held off on any real celebration until I got back to the car. There I took out the tennis racquet and walked back over to a grassy spot near the entrance to the woods.

I did what I said I would do. I went to my knees (somewhat gingerly in old-man fashion) and threw my hands over my head. I threw the racquet in the air and then let out a yell. I lay back on the grass. Missy looked on, confused, then came over and licked my face.

It’s true there were not thousands of people up in the stands cheering me on. But you know what? It also felt good. Fuck it. A win is a win. We writers got to take it where we can get it.



  1. Bill writes:

    The dude in the top photo seems to have a boner. Just sayin’

  2. Maddy writes:

    Thank you, Dave, for the writerly commiseration, er, celebration. I always thought my own ‘yes, but’ reaction was a cross between being a Mainer and being brought up with that auto-self-deprecation knee-jerk response. Maybe a Puritan hangover?
    But you’ve cleared the air. Hallelujah!