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The yips

I'm taking a (short) break (just from the Monday newsletter)


Emily VanDerWerff

Aug 02 2021

4 min read


Last week, I was writing something fairly routine for Vox — a quick retrospective on Friday Night Lights for that show's return to Netflix (read it Tuesday!) — and I just couldn't get any of my writing muscles to fire.

This sort of block had hit me in the past, and it usually came from over-extending myself. To compensate, I would tamp down on the number of things I needed to write, then consume as many books and movies as I could. Usually, that refueled my tank enough to keep going.

But I've really hit a wall in 2021. I've alluded to this here and there, but it's been an absurdly difficult year for me on a personal level, and that difficulty is leeching into my work. I haven't over-extended myself so much as I've gotten to a place where I've lost confidence in myself.

I've come to think of it as something akin to "the yips," the sports phenomenon where a player who should be able to do some completely routine thing suddenly discovers their brain no longer allows them to do that thing. Brains are delicate creatures, and they have a tendency to spin out at even the best of times. Get caught in a cycle of confidence loss, and a brain can completely self-destruct.

I haven't self-destructed! At least not yet! But muscles that usually know how to fire have been misfiring a lot lately, and I don't always know how to get them back under control. The Avatar recaps, weirdly, have been taking me hours, when recaps have, in the past, been something I could write very quickly.

There are reasons for this hesitance. 2021 has, as mentioned, probably been the worst year of my adult life, with a bunch of stuff hitting me all at once, so it was probably not a great year to launch yet another professional endeavor. (Though, obviously, I didn't know all of this was going to hit at the start of the year!)

But the fact remains: I need to scale back some of my commitments, and as such, I'm gonna take a quick break from the Monday newsletter. It's a huge time suck, one that I undertake on weekends, and it's become a huge source of stress as well. If my writing energy is sapped, then I need to focus what I have on Vox and let other projects fall by the wayside for a second.

Fortunately for all of you, the vast majority of you have subscribed in just the last year, and I have archives stretching back to 2015. I'm going to be rerunning some of my favorite older newsletters every Monday from now until September 13*. In most cases, those older newsletters will be completely new to you! What a steal!

(*-In addition to everything else, I'm having major surgery on August 30, so this September 13 date is a "I hope I'm recovered enough to write something" date. Adjust accordingly!)

The Wednesday newsletter will continue apace, because my writing issues don't extend to editing for whatever reason, and the Friday newsletter will, too. I've only got two Avatar articles left, and then I'm taking six weeks to run through Fleabag, and I actually already recapped all of those episodes shortly after season two finished airing, for an early idea of what the paid newsletter might look like. They've just been sitting on a hard drive, gathering dust! And now you'll get to read them*! Wow!

(*-if you're a paid subscriber)

Please, please, please don't worry about me. The fact that I'm doing this might seem drastic to you, but me doing this is, I think, a sign of how much my ability to take care of myself has progressed over an awful year.

I'll see you all soon enough, and if you have any favorites from the archives you'd love to see me break out again, drop some suggestions in comments!

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