3 min read

18. When the experience is the point

A changeup isn't just a slow pitch; it's a pitch expected to be fast that is suddenly, surprisingly, slow.
18. When the experience is the point

You're reading The Ponder, and I'm Devin. Welcome! This is where I connect the dots between seemingly disparate ideas floating around in my head. Thank you for being here. I hope you stay awhile.


She's talking about baseball and writing today! So excited to welcome you to this corner of my brain and heart. This edition is dedicated to my 16-year-old brother whose essay on changeups I edited (hi JP), and in doing so learned a lot.

The dots

  • "Titles by their nature imply that the play's architecture is like a bull's-eye (and some are) with the point being in the center. Sometimes the point is in the margins, or in the experience of throwing the dart." — Sarah Ruhl in her essay On titles and paintings (in the book 100 ESSAYS I DON'T HAVE TIME TO WRITE)
  • "When you think it's a ball, it's a strike. When you swing at what you think is a strike, it's in the dirt. He's a remarkable pitcher." — Yankee Manager Joe Torre talking about Greg Maddux

How do they connect?

The changeup isn't just 'the slow pitch,' it's a phantom. When executed well, the batter doesn't know it's a changeup until too late, tricked by the pitcher showing all the signals that screamed 'incoming fastball!' That experience is the point of the changeup.

I'm devouring Sarah Ruhl's book, and when I got to this part, "Sometimes the point is in the margins, or in the experience of throwing the dart," I thought of baseball and writing.

It's a dramatic moment when the batter swings and misses at a slow pitch — specifically a changeup. If you're lucky, it's your pitcher who threw it, and you get to scream really loud and perhaps taunt the batter a little bit. You think: "How could he miss that moon ball?"

Imagine you're Javi Baez, staring down a pitcher who is showing all the signs that he's going to throw a heater. The pitcher rears back and throws, and Baez doesn't know it's a changeup until he has swung and missed, looking like a damn fool.

Watch Javi Baez miss on a 78mph changeup

The trick is, a changeup isn't just a slow pitch; it's a pitch expected to be fast that is suddenly, surprisingly, slow. The batter was doing everything right — until proven wrong. Haven't we all experience this, in one way or another?

In the context of writing, I'm reading the signs of authors, agents, readers, book lists. Sometimes they're helpful, sometimes not. Often, we don't find out if the signs were helpful or not until our expectations of an experience are wildly wrong.

An age ago (twelve months), I thought the point of writing a book was to produce a book. The product was more valuable than the experience. It makes sense in terms of the finished books I see out in the world.

As I've written, revised, written, revised, it's dawned on me that the point of writing a book (for me, at this time) is the experience. I want to let it enrich my daily life. I don't want to grow furious that it's taking me so long to hit the bulls-eye of 'finished the book.' I'm still very unproven, but I think that the more joy I can work into my practice, the more likely it is that I'll finish the book. —DKP

P.S. I'm grateful for baseball! Baseball is one of the few things I evangelize about.


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