A few thoughts re Sports Blogging one fine Wednesday morning:
The key to good writing is that you have to put your whole heart into it. Putting your heart into makes sure what you write is honest – a key requirement to making sure you do not produce bullshit. It makes you express yourself with clarity, conviction and truth. Without any of which you will just be taking up space.
The best times when you write with heart is when what you are writing about evokes emotion. It also happens to be when it is hardest, because you need to suspend your emotions long enough to make sense. That’s not to say that tears have to be streaming down your face as you write every sentence. You can write a very good technical article for example, or a point by point explanation of why you think the Mavericks will win another championship and still be entertaining.
If however you decide to, say, write about why the DLSU basketball program is superior over all other UAAP schools, and you happen to be a dyed in the wool green blooded La Sallian, then you will probably be writing with your heart, because it involves people, places and events that evoke memories and emotion.
Tons of interesting topics abound: ‘Why you think Filipino pride is wasted on Pacquiao’, ‘Why Jaworski should just man up and retire’. It can be a variety of topics, as long as it is of significant importance to you.
Taking on big topics is akin to ‘separating the men from the boys’ as it were, and is a literary equivalent of taking your game to another level. Doing so requires brains and guts. Brains because, like I said, you need to get your facts straight and make your points completely and clearly, otherwise your article will be dismissed as fan – drivel and irrelevant. Guts because you know if you make a mistake you will be derided, and admit it or not, your reader’s opinions are important to you, and will serve as a mirror of how you regard yourself as a writer.
This is why sports writing / blogging appealed to me, and is so much more relevant and entertaining. Few articles are written with emotion behind it. With the possible exception of Politics, you cannot see articles like that in the Finance, Lifestyle and Entertainment Sections of newspapers.
When I was a kid, I idolized sportswriters because of exactly that – they wrote with passion and emotion, and particularly the best ones who did so with precision.
They wrote how angry they were and more importantly, WHY they were angry, giving weight to their arguments. It was the equivalent of going off into a screaming tirade, but instead of invectives and nonsense, words of sense and style come out of their mouths.
I realized then that writing effectively is the singular determinant between being written off as an idiot and being taken seriously. It was like a whole crowd of people was caught up in a wave of emotion over a great sporting moment, but only the sportswriters were heard because only they knew how to use their voice effectively.
The best way for a writer to shine is to take risks. Go take on huge, enormous risky articles that will either make you fall flat on your face or shine like a star. No great sports writer became great by just getting along with everyone. Form an opinion, take a side on a controversial issue, research it well, write it out for the world to see. You will be impaled and shunned by a few, but believe me, you will be appreciated by the ones that matter. If for nothing else, do it because nothing compares to the feeling of producing a well written article.
If you have heart and a message that is important to you, all of the other things like grammar, construction and even spelling will fall into place. Having said that it is my belief that you can write like a fucking jejemon and completely disperse with established norms of ‘proper’ writing and still produce copy that’s worth a damn. I believe in that wholeheartedly.
However, the technical stuff is important because it is the vehicle upon which you will deliver your points. What good is writing with enthusiasm if no one can understand you? That is the only reason why I encourage correct use of your chosen language (English or Tagalog, it doesn’t matter). If you can pull off writing your thoughts like a jejems that’s well and good. But it would be so much easier if you just follow norms already established in language. Your goal is to express yourself, not get caught up in technicalities or lingo.
Some people use their knowledge of English as a way to distinguish themselves, as if these are points on a scale to judge a person with. This is superficial and crass, and only encourages hate. If you feel like correcting someone’s English, make sure you speak from a high enough moral standpoint so as to do so with authority. If in doubt of this, keep your fucking mouth shut because you are likely coming off as an ass.
Finally, the best advice I have ever heard re writing is to ‘remember articles that you can’t stand reading’ and then ‘do not write like that’. Another one is from Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’, where he received advice that said ‘Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%’. Brevity forces you to examine your words carefully. Given a choice between two sentences that deliver the same message, always choose the shorter one.
The reason why my blog posts have become fewer is partly because there aren’t a whole lot of things that excite me about basketball as compared to earlier in this blog’s life when I was very much ‘into it’.
This is because I have matured, (another word for saying I am old). I’ve also read tens of basketball books that have given me a far wider view of sports as an industry, and have thus realized what I’d find controversial before are mere business decisions, and at the end of the day professional sports, regardless of what you feel about them, is just another business.
Take for example the brewing controversy regarding the non – inclusion of Marcus Douthit into the PBA. When I was younger I’d have gone the knee jerk route and derided the whole of the Philippines as racist and unprofessional in treating a player who has played for the Philippine team.
Now however, I recognize that the PBA is not ‘the Philippines’ and despite its name does not necessarily represent national interest. It is just a business struggling to make a profit like any other, and if it allows Douthit to play as a Filipino it will introduce great disparity in their tournaments especially in the All-Filipino conference.
Being also a businessman, the PBA’s decision therefore makes sense to me, because if it were allowed, a single team will be given far too great an advantage, and games will become predictable and redundant, spelling disaster at the ticket gates.
It makes so much sense to me, that it doesn’t seem worth writing about anymore. To a person of even marginal business maturity, it makes as much sense as the sun rising in the East. It happens everyday. It is normal. It is not news.
To the immature sports fans who only see things as black and white however, it is a sign of racism and ingratitude, and serves as yet another sign as to why the country is down in the dumps. I used to be that kind of person. I am not anymore, and while it might mean I therefore will write a lot less, I wouldn’t give up being mature for the alternative.
Read Love Write
There is no getting around reading. To write, you must read. If you want to write a lot, then you must read a lot. A LOT.
Gather as much information as you can about your chosen profession. Books, Movies, Magazines, Interviews. Soak it all up like a sponge. In the course of which you will become expert or at the very least, knowledgeable enough to converse with some authority. This will do nothing but improve your writing.
Finally, you can only do all these if you love what you do. If you examine yourself and ask why you want to write, it is because the sheer act of it brings immeasurable joy to you. Any other answer means you do not love it. If you do not love it, you will fail.