Sports metaphors are of course overused, but it occurs to me that one particular set of them — ones involving batting in baseball — are uniquely useful for delineating, especially in relation to writing, the many forms of failure. I just told someone that I thought Garrison Keillor’s Trump-thumping didn’t quite work, that he had taken a mighty swing but popped out to the second baseman. If I had a lower opinion of it, I might say that he swung for the fences but fouled it off his foot, or struck out swinging; if a higher one, that he flied out to the warning track. All of these options arise, in this particular case, from my sense that Keillor was trying to write the definitive put-down of Trump — that he was trying to hit a homer.
But of course batters don’t always try to hit homers: some of them are singles hitters, some of them look to walk a lot; occasionally one will be called upon to, or will decide to, bunt, and bunting can be done sacrificially or for a hit. The point being: batting in baseball offers us a remarkably varied vocabulary of aspiration and failure (or success). And that’s very useful for describing writing too.