Five Ways I Fight Writer’s Slog


The great sportswriter Joe Posnanski once wrote,

People often ask me how I handle writer’s block — well knock on wood, thank my lucky stars, I’ve never had it. My thought about writer’s block is basically that my Dad worked in a factory almost his whole life, and he never had “factory block.” Sometimes the words don’t come as easily as others, but you do what you have to do.

I’ve tried applying that. But some days, like yesterday, the writing is hard. And some days, like yesterday, I really need writing to come more easily.

My problem yesterday was a problem I run into often, especially when writing my first piece for a new publication. This particular new publication is Sports Illustrated’s website, Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to one day write for Sports Illustrated. Needless to say, getting a crack at writing for their website has me unbelievably stoked.

My goal is to have something published in their magazine by age 24. I’ll be 24 on April 14, 2011. Meanwhile, this is a great step. I pitched a story proposal to fantastic editor BJ Schecter a few weeks ago. The story, in a sentence: blind military veteran runs marathons and is ultimately planning to one day complete Ironman Hawaii.

I’ve researched the mess out of this thing. I’m talking with the subject about possibly writing a book telling his story, a book proposal I know I’ll pitch based off the success of this article. Since I’ve researched so much, I have so much to tell. So much more than my 2,500-word limit.

I’m fine with that limit. Working within limits, within definitions, creates something beautiful. But it’s figuring out which 2,500 words to use that drives me mad. I finally finished a first draft around 3 p.m. yesterday. It’s due tomorrow. My draft presently stands at nearly 5,207 words. (Yeah, I’ve got some work to do.)

My problem was that when I saw the word count break that 2,500-word barrier, I started slogging. I don’t hit a wall. I don’t hit writer’s block, since that doesn’t exist. (Or so I convince myself.) It’s more like, well, writer’s slog. It’s just how it sounds. I slog along. When not slogging, I’m not easily distracted. An hour can go by, or even two, and I don’t even check Facebook or Twitter or anything. But when slogging, I’m on there every five seconds, it seems like.

So I have to fight it somehow. It’s like when I was playing baseball. You do anything to get out of a slump. Change your socks. Change your eyeblack. Change your wristbands. Change your bat. Anything.

I fight writer’s slog many ways, but these are five main ones:

  1. As I did yesterday, I change my clothes. I was wearing shorts and flip flops. I changed into jeans and brown dressy casual shoes. I stayed in a t-shirt and my Staten Islan Yankees cap, but some days I go so far as to put on a button-down shirt and sportcoat.  
  2. Shower. Don’t worry. I bathe regularly. But sometimes a fresh shower works wonders. A sub-category of showering is shaving. Nothing feels quite as good as a clean shave. Another sub-category is giving myself a haircut. I rock the no-guard buzzcut anyway, so it’s quick and easy and gives me something to accomplish. Accomplishing one things builds good momentum that I can usually use to get the writing rolling.
  3. Work out. Studies show that you’re way more productive after a 30-minute workout, whether it’s a walk or jog or weight lifting session or hip-hop dance class or whatever. Usually I’ll ride my bike the mile and a half to the gym, lift weights for 40 minutes or so, then ride back. Works every time.
  4. Music. If I’ve been listening to music and start slogging, I’ll turn it off. If I’m slogging to silence, I crank some tunes. (See my recent post about my Top 5 Work Songs here.)
  5. Organize. If my desk is a mess, I get it straight. If the dishes need to be done, I do them. If clothes are on the floor in the bedroom, I clean them up. The neater the area around me, the more smoothly my brain operates.

How’s about the rest of you? In whatever you do, how do you stop slogging and get going, in whatever you’re doing? 

[ picture via ]

6 Responses
  1. Done! Dishes are clean and put away! The desk is organized! And the clothes … eh, well, 2 outta 3 ain't bad.

  2. ClownBaby

    count to 17, do 17 pushups, 17 jumping jacks, walk 17 steps, drink a cup of water, sit down, count to 17, then start again.

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