Lessons from 2 years of sports blogging
I wrote my final post for The Daily Axe this week and realized how much the site has been a part of my college life and how much I’ve learned from doing it. I also know that there are a lot of young people like me, who love sports and love writing and have very little interest in writing for the school newspaper.
So here are 5 bullet points to help you if you’re one of those people. I’m not an expert in the field, but I have done this enough to have learned something in the course of writing enough words to easily fill a novel. These absolutely aren’t rules—those don’t really exist—but I think they’re true and I think they’re helpful.
- There are lots of mean internet users. You should read all of your site’s mentions on Twitter, and every backlink, and every comment, and every bulletin board post about your writing that you can find, at least in the beginning. It shouldn’t change your writing, and it shouldn’t discourage you. But it should toughen you up. It’s often painful, especially for us members of the supposedly pampered generation. But you grow a lot as a writer, and your writing gets a whole lot better when you’ve taken your hits and are liberated from the self-imposed tyranny of caring what jerks on the internet think about your work.
- Be nice, be earnest. This one is harder than it sounds. It’s really easy to be mean. It’s really easy to be snarky and “ironic.” There are entire sites—very popular ones—that thrive on meanness or snark or both. But snark is cheap if used without judicious moderation. In writing in general, but often especially in sports, the people you’re discussing are doing something they love with some of their best friends, often making substantial sacrifices just to play a game. It’s so easy to mock them from behind a screen. It’s so easy to approach the game as if it’s a video game. I have a friend who described sport as a subtle human drama that we all get to watch unfolding in front of us. That’s the best description of sports I’ve ever heard. I’m imperfect in this regard, as are most writers, so do as I say and not as I do. But if you can approach your writing as a hybrid between a commentator and a fiction writer—who cares about characters despite their shortcomings and quirks—you might find a sweet spot and approach the people you write about with due respect.
- Be weird. Don’t be gimmicky, but if you’re working for yourself on your own site, you have a portentous privilege to try things out. Make a stupid uniform bracket (it might bring in your site’s highest traffic ever). But make it because you love sports uniforms, not because you think it will cheaply draw in clicks. There are a million writers who write the same way, put it up online and call it a day. That’s not without merit. But your site will probably cost you money and in return you’ll get the pleasure of interacting with readers, building something from scratch and maybe getting some cool experiences out of it. Above all, though, you’re your own boss. Take that opportunity to be weird.
- Be obsessive. A lot of bloggers post more often than I did. A lot tweet more. But very few are as meticulous about their posts as I am. Reread your posts several times. Don’t ever publish typos, and fix them when misspellings and weird syntax slip through. Create as beautiful a site as you can. Aesthetics and design really matter. People judge you and your site right away, so make it as good-looking and professional as you can with your time, talent and the money in your wallet. Delve into the business side of publishing as much as you can, but make sure that it doesn’t compromise the integrity of your content.
- Contact me. Anyone. I’d be happy to talk to you about pretty much anything. My email is here (just solve the CAPTCHA code to prove you’re not a bot), but I’m also on Twitter at @WillysDeVoll.