Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances


Saturday, February 07, 2004

For those few faithful souls who glance at Writeright now and again to see if I have posted anything new, I apologize. I can’t seem to stay motivated to write new stuff for the blog.

I’m afraid it’s another example of a recurring but curious trend in my life. Every ongoing activity I commit myself to eventually becomes a burden, it seems.

That happened with writing a newspaper column, which I did for four years in Bend, Oregon, back in the ‘80s. From the time I first became involved in newspaper work as a teenager, one of my prime ambitions was to be a columnist. To have the creative freedom to write my own column! What a rush! No more inverted pyramid, no more objectivity, no more picking subjects by news value. I could just write what I wanted how I wanted. If I wanted to write about a conversation with my 18-month-old son, I could do that. And I did. When I began writing a weekly column for the Bulletin, I was happy as a pig in slop, as my Nebraska uncle used to say. I won awards for it, I became a minor local celebrity, grocery store checkers recognized me as I paid for my TV dinners. But along about the third year, I began to run out of ideas. Generating the weekly 15 inches of copy became harder and harder. In the last months, I spent hours every week trying to think of SOMETHING, ANYTHING to write. When I quit first the newspaper staff and then, a short time later, the column, I was relieved.

It was the same way with coaching baseball. When my oldest boy was six, he began playing Little League. His first coach quit in midseason, leaving management of the team to a committee of dads who had not much of a clue, including one particularly tough-to-take loudmouth who made Joe cry by yelling at him. Joe’s second season, the coach was a disorganized airhead who sometimes showed up for practice with no baseballs. (It’s tough to practice baseball without a baseball.) I decided I could do as well as these clowns, so in Joe’s third season I became a Little League manager. I discovered I had a bit of a knack for it (if you can manage a staff of newspaper reporters and copy editors, you can manage a collection of 8-year-old ballplayers), and I continued on up the ladder into Little League majors with first Joe, then middle son Mickey. We even won a couple of championships. Then came caboose kid Andy, and I found myself resuming the trek through Little League with 8-year-olds again. By the time Andy and I had won a 12-year-old championship, I was ready to retire. I had begun to resent the time I had to devote to planning practices, to running practices, to managing games, to umpiring other teams’ games, to attending league board meetings. Sometimes I felt as if I had become a full-time, but unpaid, youth baseball manager. I hoped to retire when Andy moved on to Babe Ruth League baseball, but the league needed managers, so I trudged on for two more years. Andy quit baseball after his 14-year-old season. I was sorry to see him give up his favorite sport, but I also was relieved. After fifteen years, I had spring afternoons and evenings to myself again. And my chronically sore pitching shoulder quit hurting.

That’s the way it goes. I coached kid basketball with Joe and Mickey and even won some championships in that sport, but by the time Mickey’s team reached seventh grade the boys were so obnoxious I could barely stand to be in the same gym with them. When Mickey decided to quit basketball and Andy’s doctors advised against his playing for health reasons, a burden was lifted.

It’s been the same way with the blog. When I launched it in October 2002, I set a goal of posting something every day. I kept up the pace until late spring of 2003. By then, I was getting that old beast of burden feeling again. I began missing some days, then shut the blog down entirely for the summer. (It’s vacation time, I reasoned.) I revived Writeright in the fall of 2003 and have posted sporadically since.

It’s weird. When I started blogging, I got a big kick out of it. I didn’t even much care if anyone read what I wrote. I was just riding the rush of cranking out fresh stuff every day. But somewhere along the way, the energy flow began to reverse. Nowadays, when I think “I should write something for the blog,” my next thoughts tend to go: “Oh, gaaaaahd! I don’t have anything to say. No one reads it anyway. What the hell is the point? I don’t want to. I don’t have to! Who says I have to? It’s a farging BURDEN, and I’m not going to shoulder it.”

Damn. I wish it wasn’t that way. But there is much historical precedent. Maybe I can get back to not caring if anyone reads Writeright or I say anything meaningful. Maybe I can get back to fun. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 06, 2004

"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out." -- Anton Chekhov

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