“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Babe Ruth
Slump. Just looking at the word makes my shoulders sag . And nobody knows more about the in-your-face impact of a slump than a baseball player. When a high-profile batter like one of the Yankee’s Bronx Bombers hits a rough patch, he’s not wrestling privately with a page, he’s playing out a public disaster in front of tens of thousands of fans. No wonder Alex Rodriguez was relieved when he recently hit a two-run blast that ended his 0-for-19 slide and a major losing streak for the Yankees.
How did A-Rod finally manage to break out of his very public downslide– and how can his strategy help us when we hit a rough patch in our writing? Let’s take a look.
First, he didn’t fight his slump — he accepted it. When manager Joe Girardi dropped him from 3rd to 6th in the lineup, he didn’t balk. Second, he welcomed a shake-up: “Sometimes just shaking up a lineup once in a while can help,” Joe noted. Third, A-Rod stopped “efforting” — trying too hard. “Joe gave me some good advice,” Alex said. “He told me to stop feeling for the baseball and just drive it….I didn’t try too much and just put a good swing on it.”
Fourth, he focused on process, not results. In his next three at bats after the shake-up, A-Rod went down, but he didn’t beat himself up about it — he saw himself as improving. “I thought my rhythm was better. I only got one hit, but thought my swings were better and my at bats were a little better. I just thought I saw the ball better.” Fifth, he aimed for consistency — recovering his rhythm. “Work in progress, long season. You just want a consistent approach. You worry about the process, not so much the results.”
In Joe Girardi’s view, the homer that ended A-Rod’s slide could have a positive long-range effect and help blast him out of his slump. “It’s frustrating when you are struggling,” Joe observed. “No matter how good of a player you have been. No matter what time of year it is. I have said it a thousand times, pressure comes from within. Every player wants to do well. I think that’s where most of the pressure comes from.”
Wise words. When we hit a rough patch on the page, the same thing happens: pressure builds from within and we get frustrated. That just fuels the problem. So let’s borrow a leaf from the Yankees and manage our slumps when we hit them.
Let’s accept them, instead of fighting. Let’s shake things up somehow — work on something different, write a poem, take a walk, do some research that’s not too demanding. Let’s stop “efforting” — trying to drag something out of ourselves. Let’s focus on process, instead of results — just doing something productive that moves us toward our goals. And finally, let’s aim for consistency: Let’s remember that our writing is a “work in progress” and it’s a “long season” — ups and downs are a natural part of the writing life.
Sometimes we lose our rhythm and it takes a while to recover it. So let’s be kind to ourselves, “freelax” as Alex used to say, aim for consistency — and write on.