I Don’t Want to Waste My Good Ideas

One untold struggle of being a writer.

Writing is difficult. Not only is there all of the pressure to produce consistent, quality content, and the time and hard work required to do so, but also all the mental battles — thoughts of inadequacy, fighting discouragement over story stats, pondering quitting entirely, and so on.

It’s these less-glamorous aspects of writing that often fly under the radar, and that non-writers might not even realize exist at all. While it might not always be comfortable, I think it’s important to acknowledge and be willing to talk about them.

Lately, I’ve been dealing with another bout of a recurring issue which I’ll do my best to explain here.

On August 3, I finally released one of my biggest projects, and something I had been working on for months — a documentary of the Cleveland Browns 2018 season. I launched a new podcast with the documentary as its first episode and even released a written version here on Medium.

Needless to say, it was a big day, and I was quite excited to share my labor of love with the world. I still maintain that it’s a very good story and that if you have any interest in football, sports, or the city of Cleveland, it’s worth a read/listen.

However, the reception has been pretty cold. Despite my best marketing efforts, and the help of some friends and family, the podcast has only been downloaded a few dozen times. Most of those come from people I know, and who knows how many actually listened through.

On Medium, even with curation in sports, it has 21 views, 6 reads, and 1 fan. It is among my worst-performing articles.

This article will do better than it, and while what I’m currently writing is worth saying, it’s nothing particularly unique or revolutionary, and I’ll have it done within an hour.

No offense to anyone to whom this appeals to more, but I don’t want to write this, and if my big projects were anywhere near as successful as I’d like, I wouldn’t have to.

Now, I’ve been writing and talking about sports on the internet for a long time — over five years, now. I understand how hard it is to get “noticed” and that for everyone, there will be disappointments and struggles along the way.

But that’s precisely the problem.

All of my big projects, the things I’m most excited about, do poorly. It’s easy to understand why — no one wants to read a huge project from essentially an unknown source. People just don’t have that kind of time.

Here are the outcomes of that, though.

First, it leads to some combination of imposter syndrome and learned helplessness, where I end up thinking, regardless of the positive comments from people who read my work, that I’m no good, and I have little to no expectations of future success.

Second, it makes me feel as if I’ve wasted a good idea since no one is actually there to read it. Why would I want to use up my good ideas on a time when I’m not famous? Surely, it would be better to just hang on to them, perhaps in a tightly-closed jar, until some unnamed date in the future?

Disclosure: I know that isn’t true, but it’s how my brain works at times like these. And that’s because…

Finally, I’m worried I’ll run out of ideas. At some point, the well will just run dry, and I’ll never come up with anything spectacular ever again, resigned to a life of mediocrity plagued by a lack of creativity.

Of course, this hasn’t happened so far, and at the moment, I have enough project ideas to carry me through the next few years, even if I never came up with anything again. But there’s always a lingering worry that the drought is coming.

After all, it’s easy to become enamored with your latest idea and swear that nothing that came before or will come after could possibly top it.

I could always repeat past ideas, editing and improving on them in the future, but that always feels cheap to me.

As I stated earlier, I’ve been through this cycle enough times to where I understand it, and won’t let it slow me down. Yet, each forecastable flop only nudges the breakthrough meter from inevitable to impossible, taunting me to try again.

Connor Groel is a writer who studies sport management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as editor of the Top Level Sports publication on Medium, and the host of the Connor Groel Sports podcast. You can follow Connor on Medium, Facebook, and Twitter, and view his archives at toplevelsports.net.

Written by

Sportswriter. Medill graduate student. Host of the Slept On Sports podcast. Relentlessly curious. My book: amzn.to/398nYk6.

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