The Off-Season: How To Survive The Writing Winters 

By Wendy Newbury

Every February, March, and April, I step into the role of general manager for my NFL team, a coveted position that passionate fans like myself eagerly embrace. Dubbed ‘armchair GMs,’ we immerse ourselves in every pivotal off-season event, hoping each move inches our team one step closer to the Lombardi Trophy. But beyond my personal passion for football lies a deeper revelation: how this intriguing phase before a new league year has shaped my approach to writing. Through this experience, I’ve discovered that the true work and enjoyment occur in the trenches.


The off-season brings behind-the-scenes action I’ve grown to love as a fan; yet, as a rookie, I dismissed the dreary months as football purgatory.

I’ve been a fan for twelve years, eight years longer than I’ve been a writer. Back when my husband had to convince me that the referees in zebra shirts blowing quick, piercing whistles, the sharp clacks from helmets colliding, and roars swelling from stadium seats on every down weren’t just white noise for my Sunday afternoon naps on the couch.

According to him, I was missing out and I couldn’t afford to be caught sleeping. The team I inherited through marriage was going to excel that year. I thought him overeager and confident in his prediction. How would he know? But, he was sure of it, having done his homework and ready to explain the countless reasons, if I’d just listen. I didn’t. I could hardly make sense of the vertical white lines, arrows, and numbers I had to decode on the turf field. As his voice trailed, and my brain turned to mush, I thought, babe, just wake me up if we win.

That year, we won plenty, and when the season ended, I put football on hold—because nothing much happened in the off-season. We were fortunate the next two seasons, reaching the Super Bowl twice, finishing as reigning champions the first time and losing in heart-breaking fashion the second. My investment had grown, but the loss was a gut punch, leaving me wondering, what now?What becomes of football fanatics when the stadium lights go out? When my writing stalled initially, I asked myself the same question.

As an emerging writer, I was driven and defined by production. There was a time when I believed that if I wasn’t continuously writing, I couldn’t rightfully consider myself a genuine writer—my dry spells felt like a betrayal of my identity. Similar to looking at an incomplete draft that I had only just started, I used to dislike those quiet periods and eagerly awaited inspiration to come.

When the writing flowed, I felt invincible. It was the best feeling, the ultimate high. Words ceased their fighting and followed my command. Sentences leapt onto the page as my fingers danced about the keyboard with unbridled motivation. Concepts soared, inspiration bloomed, and I never feared the dreaded question: How’s the writing going? It was splendid!

The rollercoaster of fandom life parallels the highs and lows of the creative process. No fan truly wants a season to end. There’s nothing like the anticipation on game days, watch parties with comfort food to accompany late fall afternoons and evenings in front of screens. Jerseys come out of closets, worn with pride. Fans set their fantasy teams, make bets, and have high hopes for a new and promising season. Yet, inevitably, there comes a last week.

We mourn the entire season from our living rooms (unless our team is the last standing). In despair, we curl up, throw adult-sized tantrums, and sulk in front of the TV, hoping to turn back the game clock and revive a dead season. Out of frustration, some swear never to think about football until June’s training camps call. Yet, most of us won’t be able to help it. Like me, we’ll tune in and watch the playoffs with a tinge of pity and envy anyway, maybe pick some underdog team to cheer on and feel validated in their disappointment, and by the time confetti showers the champions, we’ll all glean some insight into how it’s done, motivated to get back and try again.

In desperation to fill blank spaces, I learned the off-season is part of the journey and teaches one to stay the course. Just as it’s a chance for teams to regroup, strategize, and plan for the next step, the writing process, regardless of the stage, is a crucial period for writers to refine their skills, experiment with new ideas, and lay the foundation for their future work. Upon discovering this, I turned the off-season into my playground, making it work in my favor.

Reflection. It’s the first thing devastated fans do when the last play of a game seals their season’s fate. When the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Green Bay Packers on December 31, 2023, missing their chance for a playoff appearance, their fans were eager to deconstruct what wasn’t working. In chat groups, we discussed, argued, and asked tough questions. What did the past and present season tell us about our team’s direction? How sustainable was our philosophy for success? What were our strengths and weaknesses in the current roster? What lessons can we gather from a year of near misses?

In writing, reflection gifted me a magnifying glass into my ideas and work. It allowed me to recognize the pitfalls I needed to climb out of, the tangles I avoided but needed to comb through, and the adjustments my team/project needed before continuing or taking the field again.

Plan. Reflection propels action, and immediately, team management kicks into gear with plans, addressing what details need the most attention first. As soon as locker room clean outs and exit interviews conclude, the plan to wisely use of the next several months before a new team could be assembled is already in place. Fans also learn to plan, outlining with precision the year-round NFL news cycle, so they stay locked in.

Despite feeling stuck, I too committed to a creative plan for my winter months to gain insight and momentum. If I couldn’t write, I set manageable goals to accomplish more reading time, listening to podcasts, or exercising with bite-sized prompts—all enough literary hype to keep me engaged.

Research. Curiosity increased my love of football and led me to the off-season gold mine—what my husband had tried to impart to me years ago. In season, I crafted win-loss spreadsheets and mulled over playoff projections weekly. While others studied game tape, I delved into analytics on many podcasts and YouTube channels. But, as I grew to understand how the draft and scouting combines worked, college football became relevant. The most talented college players might serve as the cornerstone or the missing piece for my professional team. During free agency, I joined thousands of fans to discuss team news and player analysis. We dissected every roster move and agonized over draft predictions and scenarios, but now we had a goal.

My writing found a new purpose with undivided research, exploring hidden gems that enriched my writing’s overall narrative.

Experiment. After the 2023 season concluded, it was clear my team, the Seattle Seahawks, had been stuck in a vicious cycle. After parting ways with our experienced head coach and his staff, it was clear our previous approach to winning had failed on multiple fronts. So, in a swift turnaround, an opportunity to bring in a promising innovative head coach and staff injected fresh and much-needed energy into the team, organization, and city.

Loyalty can be a crutch, and I often found myself tied to one idea or a single approach out of fear. So, I expanded my writing to explore other perspectives, allowing stories, however uncomfortable I felt, to take on different forms and speak in the way they desired.

Revise and Edit. The entire football off-season is a revise and edit tutorial. My once defensively dominate team over time became one of the worst defenses in the league and hardly recognizable. Teams often use the break to re-establish their identity and philosophy. Along with coaches and staff, the team expects to release and replace players who no longer fit the system.

Instead of adding more words, I sought clarity and returned to the essence of my writing’s purpose and message.

Connect. What keeps fans sane is that we have one another, our shared expectations, and experiences. As competitive as it can be, being part of a massive social group every Sundays, Mondays, and sometimes Thursdays unifies us for the long haul.

Enrolling in writing courses, seeking feedback, and collaborating with other writers made the dry seasons feel less lonely, reminding me that community is as important to our writing journey as solitary work.

Rest and Recharge. Burnt out fans and writers aren’t much fun, nor are they of any use when the season calls us back. Like players take the time to rest their minds and bodies, I find it just as productive to take breaks and practice self care. Reset. The off-season isn’t made to destroy us. It’s the start of something new.

Wendy Newbury

Wendy Newbury is a music educator and writer living in Pasco, WA. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net twice and a Pushcart. Her work can be found online at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @newburywrites.