This is the third and final post in the Alex Lewis Scholarship auction. It comes almost a year late, just as we're about to revisit efforts for this year's fundraising. This post is late partly because I was waiting for the offseason for this topic, and partly because I am awful and do not know how to manage my time.
The first Alex Lewis Scholarship post was about the best third baseman in the NL West. The second was an amalgam of inside jokes, loosely tethered to the argument that the National League was the superior league. The winner of the third topic has chosen this as the topic:
`I was hoping you could do something of an autobiographical post on your writing life; what's kept you motivated, what do you aspire to, what makes it worthwhile to you?
This is perfect because I get to talk about me, which is a pet subject of mine. And I get to do it under the guise of having no choice. O, the tyranny of this chosen topic!
The short version: I majored in journalism at Southern Oregon, where about half of my classes were creative writing classes. I enjoyed them, and they gave me license to describe myself as a writer. I didn't really write, but I jotted ideas down on scraps of paper. Close enough. And I sure planned to write one of those days. Just, you know, later.
After I dropped out of college, I discovered that I enjoyed writing about baseball, and starting a blog was the best way to keep the I'm-a-writer credentials I used to have. A couple years later, SB Nation started, and this site was the second to go live on the network. After writing here for six years, they asked me to join full-time. Now we're here. The end.
Except that's boring. And the good parts are cut out. Where are the explosions? The gratuitous boobs? No, no, this won't do at all. Let's get grubby and dig into this.
Back in 2004, I moved back to the Bay Area from Oregon, and I nearly gave up writing. I had a grown-up job and a grown-up girlfriend, and whenever I sat down to write … nope. Nothing. I started doing that blog thing where I apologized for not writing on the blog, even though no one cared about the blog. I gave the site the 40-percent effort that I usually gave my creative endeavors, and it didn't work. But I tried. Kind of.
The problem: I didn't like what I was writing. I was convinced it was all crap. Most writers are insecure on some level, and I wasn't any different. I'd look at something I wrote the night before, and think it was really good. Then I'd look at it the next day and doubt. Then I'd look at it a week later and be sure it was total crap.
Ten years later, I can say with certainty that it was absolute, total crap. Good gravy. I made a Kangaroo Jack joke in my very first Waiting For Boof post. That's … it was all so terrible. I tried too hard to come up with catchy turns-of-phrase, and I had no idea what governed the use of commas.Hyperbole was the default, and there was way too much of that old-Internet smug. Every baseball writer back then was smarter than everyone else. You just had to ask them. I was no exception.
Just look at this crap. It makes me so freaking angry to read that ...
And my writing now? Still crap. Much better, sure. But almost certainly crap. With everything I write, even the articles that get a lot of positive response, I can go back a week later and pick out 10 things I should have done better. This will never change.
The difference now, though, is that I write too much to get bogged down. Instead of moping about the things I don't like, I tally them, hopefully learn from them, and move on. I have no choice. Which brings us back to the original subject request:
what's kept you motivated
Right as I was about to quit blogging, a goofy A's fan e-mailed me. In December, 2004, I signed a contract. It read that I was responsible for a set amount of posts every week (five, I think). That's the only reason I'm still writing.
When there's a risk of disappointing myself, I don't care. That goes for everything and anything. I would eat seven It's-Its and chase them with a liter of bourbon in a Scottsdale motel every night if the only thing stopping me was self-loathing. That's not even really a concern for me. Who cares what I think? Not me, certainly, so down the hatch.
When there's a risk of disappointing other people, though, I do stuff. Sometimes, I do it right. Dropping out of college at 21 didn't bother me. Dropping out of college at 30 would have disappointed my wife. At least, it I figured it could have. So I graduated the second attempt with better grades than I'd ever had in my life.
The fear of disappointment goes for the It's-Its and bourbon, too. My family generally wants me to stay alive, so out of deference to them …
I didn't want to disappoint the people who founded the adorable little blog network. I didn't want to get that e-mail about how I wasn't writing enough. So I wrote. I made a routine out of it, using every single freaking lunch break at my old job to craft important thoughts on Dan Ortmeier.
I became a professional writer because someone expected me to write, and other people's expectations happen to be the only thing that motivate me. Then I got lucky. I wish it were more poetic. I wish my grandpappy gave me the journal he kept just before Normandy, and I wish it inspired me to embrace the printed word in a way I'd never explored before. Instead, I was in the right place at the right time, and my own neuroses forced me to keep writing until I stumbled into a career. America!
If I had stopped writing about baseball, I would have found other creative outlets. I would have written partial screenplays and incomplete novels. I would have continued writing music that I never intended to record or play live. Instead, I got lucky. I'm quite happy writing about baseball, even if I'm an insecure writer who will be exposed as a fraud any second.
Please, do not expose me as a fraud. That seems like it would be really sad.
On another day, in another week, I would have written about Mr. O'Flynn giving my Halloween story an A+, or the summer school teacher who said the phrase "You're good enough to be a professional writer one day" when explaining why she didn't really believe I failed sophomore English. Or how this guy pulled me aside after a required freshman writing class and asked/demanded that I take his creative writing class the following semester. Or how I got hooked on the feedback loop of people actually reading what I write. Or how the Giants won the World Series*.
Today, though, I wrote about how this is all a crazy accident, and how I didn't want to become the guy who stopped writing, only because people were expecting me to write.
Whatever it takes, I guess. Whatever it takes. I'm glad I was just that weird.