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Karla Faye Tucker died on February 3, 1998, at the age of 38.
February 3, 2018
The hardest part of being a baseball player has to be not knowing
whether or not you’re going to be able to hit tomorrow. Baseball has
always been my favorite sport for a myriad of reasons, but foremost
among them is its regularity. They played yesterday, they play today,
they’ll play tomorrow. If you go 0-for-4 today, that’s OK, because you
get four more at-bats tomorrow. Go out there and play hard every day,
and in the end, it all adds up and evens out and you get a macro sense
of who you are and how you’ve done.
This has always been my approach to work. You get up, you write, you go to bed, you do the same thing the next day and forever until you die. In the end, you’ve got a lifetime of work that you hope holds up, but you don’t sweat the details of every individual piece. It’s a newspaperman’s mentality. There’s an open page, and your job is to fill it today and again tomorrow; the work you did yesterday is just birdcage filler. (This is also a blogger’s mentality; you can write the best thing in the world and it’ll still scroll off the page by lunchtime.) This was Roger Ebert’s mentality as well. My favorite quote about writing is his, “The muse visits during the act of creation, not before.” In other words: Shut up and get to work.
Well, this last week, for the first time since November 2014 — the last time I took a full week’s vacation — I didn’t have much work to do. I had a ton of traveling, I had a ton of meetings, we taped an episode of the show and I’m in Minnesota right now for the Super Bowl tomorrow. I’ve certainly been busy. But as you’ll see in the linked stories below, I haven’t been writing much. I have a column coming up in New York, I filed a couple of pieces for the Los Angeles Times and NBC and SyFy, I did some edits on a book review, I even worked a little bit on the novel. But I didn’t wake up, like I have pretty much every day for the last five years, with an immediate deadline awaiting me.
It was a little disorienting! There was a stretch like this about 10 years ago, right after I left Deadspin and started at New York, when I’d wake up in the morning with no one waiting for me to file or post something and the differences between being a professional blogger and a professional magazine writer were laid bare. I just woke up and ... frittered around. Answered emails. Checked Twitter. Read some feature stories I’d been meaning to get around to. I’ve never had an issue with writer’s block, ever: I’ve always said that writer’s block is the privilege of those who don’t have people waiting to hear what they have to say. (Writers need to treat writing as involuntary an act as putting on a coat when you are cold. You don’t think about it. You just do it.) But those months were the time it was hardest, because I needed to produce, and there was nothing to produce. My wife says these couple of months were the most miserable she’s ever seen me. I ended up started an NY mag sports blog and starting a movie blog for Yahoo, at the same time, just to keep my idle hands busy.
That’s sort of what this week has been like. I’ve had plenty to do, but I haven’t woken up every morning with an immediate deadline. And I’m all off and listless and confused by it. Why aren’t I typing? This is a temporary condition. We are close to nailing down the next thing; just have to cross some I’s and dot some T’s. And of course I still wrote three pieces this week and taped a show and ran like a maniac from one place to another like always. But I wasn’t writing every day. And I need to be writing every day.
And this brings us back to the baseball fear. Hitting a baseball is, in many ways, an involuntary act. You do it without thinking, your muscle memory making split-second decisions for you; you do it because you have done it thousands of times before. If you have to think about it for a second, the ball is already past you. But just because you’ve done it before doesn’t, reflexively, mean you’re going to be able to do always do it. Past performance is not an indicator of future results. When you do something instinctively, when you put in the theoretical 10,000 hours, you assume you’ll always be able to do it. But do baseball players know this? Albert Pujols has hit 614 homers. Not a single one of those homers will do him any good his next at-bat. You just have to go out there and do it again. That’s why you have to just keep pushing and pushing; the only way to stay good is to stay swinging. You never know if it’s going to someday just go away.
You have to keep the momentum going. I wrote this week. I’ll write next week. Soon, I’ll be back to writing nearly every day again. I’ll get to go back and look at this moment and remember how I always want to claw my face off when I’m not writing every day. Time off is not my thing. I need to get back in the cage. I need to take some swings again. Just in case I’ve forgotten how. You get up, you write, you go to bed, you do the same thing the next day and forever until you die. Everything else is just lining the bird cage.
Also: The first episode of the show is up! You can watch it right here.
You can also subscribe to the SI channel on Amazon Channels to see it on air, as well as other great shows like “Planet Futbol” and “The Crossover.” But this episode, you can watch live right here. The second one is with The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay, and it is about media and it is a fun one too. It should be up this week.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. I Humbly Submit That Bill Belichick Is At Least A Little Bit Lovable, Los Angeles Times. Yeah, that’s the sort of headline that’ll get a guy killed.
2. Debate Club: The Best Villain Performances in Superhero Movies, SYFY Wire. Some pretty great ones, actually.
As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don’t even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:
Grierson & Leitch, we look back at Sundance 2018, preview the movies we’re looking to most this year and discuss “City of God.”
The Will Leitch Experience, I will know next week whether this is still going or not.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
I will be at the Super Bowl on Sunday but I will have no deadline piece to write afterward and that will be weird!
I send you off with this questionnaire that my three-year-old son Wynn filled out about his father.
I actually hate salad.
Have a great weekend, everyone.