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Jun 10 / Joel Cordes

A pep talk for those dark nights of the sportswriter soul

I had a great conversation with one of our writers this week about battling writer’s block and just hitting the wall. We’ve all had the dark days where it’s a drag to do this. I spent a long time as an unpaid writer/producer/reporter and have even given up (temporarily) out of frustration. More than once.

It certainly happens more often than you think. If you ever want to chat, hit me up at Seriously. For now, here’s a pep talk based on what (little) I’ve learned and seen.

1. On the one hand, it absolutely is a job. It’s a grind and it’s work. Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t all fun and games. That’s only the silver lining to a lot of cloudy days we spend soldiering through.

2. On the other hand, it is a lot of fun. It has to be, otherwise there wouldn’t be thousands upon thousands of candidates all scrapping for a few hundred jobs at most. When feeling down or out of verve for what you’re doing, remember what made you want to do it in the first place, how lucky or blessed you are to be in a position with the opportunity and ability that so few get to experience (regardless of how much they “want it”). Then change your perspective on who you’re writing for …

3. Every time you write, you should have an audience in mind. For fun, switch it up from time to time. Are you going to concentrate on diehards? Contrarians? Haters of your team? New arrivals to the fan base? Casual basketball fans?  Changing this variable presents entirely new challenges. Don’t even get me started on what it means to change your voice. Suddenly, you have an endless possibility of variables and outcomes to play around with.

I’ve mused on this before. Maybe these will help:

10 ways to beat writer’s block

Telling the same old story for the first time

4. Finally, keep perspective about why you’re doing what you do. Does writing for little to no money suck at times? You bet it does. All paid writers started out that way in one way or another. However, every opportunity to talk or write while people listen or read is a chance to hone your craft.

Every opportunity is a chance to market yourself and then leverage that for other opportunities. That’s the only way to outlast people in a marathon, which so many think is a sprint. It may not feel like you’re moving forward at times, but you’re gaining experience while others just sit around and wish about the destination without actually getting on with the journey.

Worse yet, others are sprinting with no backup plans or mental toughness to keep their stamina up. They’re gonna drop out of the race sooner rather than later.

Finally, is it about the money? Yes. You have to pay the bills. there are a lot of ways to pay the bills, though. But wouldn’t you be writing, talking, obsessing about sports either way? Yes. That’s why you love what you do and are willing to run the marathon.

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Joel Cordes is an NBA Assistant Editor at Bleacher Report. 


  • Chris Stephens

    I spent a year writing for free for the site before earning my way into the paid internship group. After that was completed, a few months later I became a paid MLB FC and continue to enjoy that to this day. Those who are willing to pay their dues and to work harder than the next guy are going to be the ones that succeed. For those who haven’t looked into the sportswriting internship, why not? Coupled with hard work, it’s one of the main reasons I am where I am.