Recently, I was in the middle of a writing project when I realized I needed to also set my fantasy football team lineup—I’ll let you decide on your own which is more important. But, it got me thinking. In many ways, writing is very much like managing your fantasy team.
- Prepping for a good draft is like prepping for a good draft. Yes, I meant to repeat there. Think about how long we prep for a “good” fantasy draft (however, see crap-shoot-ness in #2). We research teams. We read blogs. We follow players. Now think about your writing. We go through the same practices as seasoned writers. We research content, look to the scholars or experts in the field, sift and sift through piles of data, and try to piece together a lineup that will work. We look for those “greats” to be supported by the “goods”, knowing all the time some parts of the content are much better than others. We work hard to find the best draft, knowing, the final result won’t necessarily look anything like what we envisioned at the beginning.
- Choosing the right players at the beginning is a crap shoot. Let’s face it. No matter how hard we work at the draft, the final lineup is different. Sometimes those greats we worked so hard to get or find pan out; sometimes they don’t (I’m thinking back to the 2008 season when Tom Brady tore his ACL in the first game.) In our writing, sometimes those lines we work so hard to perfect have to get cut (either by outside forces like length requirements or by editors), and we’re forced to reconcile those changes and shift the team around. Really, when we start out, despite our best planning, we never really know what the final product will be. And, that’s okay because it’s part of the game.
- You have to know when to keep and when to cut. Let’s imagine a piece of writing is like a team, with the words and sentences being the players. When we’re writing, we often become quite attached to certain phrases, words, and ideas, regardless of how good they are. So, rather than cut them, we shift those mediocre phrases onto the bench of our team. Sure they’re taking up space where stronger players might be picked up or replaced through a free agent (new ideas), but for some reason, we just can’t let them go. There comes a time, though, when you have to face the hard reality and cut the dead weight. Take a risk on new talent, try some more freewriting, but be willing to release tired phrases that won’t carry their weight.
- You have to take the wins with the losses. We all know the euphoria that comes with a winning week. When you wake up Tuesday morning and realize you’ve actually done it. Your team has won. This same feeling comes when you open your email and find an acceptance note. Sure, it was a tough road, but the spoils are worth it. Trash talk in your league (or among your colleagues) or just the pure, sweet satisfaction. And then there are the mornings when you wake up to a loss. A player was hurt. Terrible reffing. The content wasn’t a fit. The boss wants a new direction. The losses weigh heavily. But, chin up, Manager. There’s always next week.
- Lineup choices can make or break you. As fantasy managers, we’re always checking stats, reports, social media feeds, to find out if we need to make a shift in the lineup. What worked one week, may not work the next. We’re always working to find the lineup that gels. As teachers, we are always telling our students that organization is key. As we’re shifting around ideas or sentences—the order they come in, the slot they fill— we realize this can really determine a win or loss in the end. This constant shifting can also make us our own worst opponents. We become immersed in finding the “perfect” lineup, but as some point, you have to click submit. You have to save the file and relinquish it.
So, the next time your colleagues ask you why you spend so much time on your fantasy team, you can tell them you’re just working on your writing process.