Vol. 1, Issue No. 10: The Writing Process (Probably More Than 10 Minutes Version) (Will's Version)
No, this is not about Taylor Swift. I just wanted to make the reference.
Confession time (here’s what I got): I had no clue what to write about this week.
That happens sometimes. Not often, I’m somewhat proud to note. As I billed this newsletter when I first announced it, you’d have weekly access to 94% of the things floating about my brain, most of which would center around sports and culture (and I believe I threw an “FYI” in there somewhere, never mind the redundancy of that, as if I’m writing to you, it’s obviously for your information). And I won’t break that promise. This is what’s been floating about my brain recently; I have no idea what to write about.
Now, that’s not totally true. I have some idea of what I wish to send out onto the world wide reading web. I wrote or contributed to a number of pieces since you last heard from me, all focused on basketball, but hey, that’s hardly a surprise. Most of the time, my brain does have someone dribbling around inside of it. In fact, I may even be so bold as to liken my brain to a basketball court. But not the kind where five-on-five games are conducted. More so the kind where one person is refining their jumper, seeing if they can improve pulling up off the dribble, or perfect an arresting hesitation that, in a game situation, would undoubtedly result in a defender standing confounded in a cloud of dust as the player in my brain scored two points. Or something like that.
I suppose this is my personal ideation process; rather than throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, I let a little imaginary hooper work through move after move until they tire out. And yes, they may have no business attempting some of them, but failure is all part of achieving success, no? Michael Jordan said that. Or he said something about success. He also said “the ceiling is the roof” one time, so I’m not sure how much stock we can put into anything Michael Jordan says.
Back to not knowing right to write about: I had ideas for everything but this newsletter. My goal with this isn’t merely to write diary entries for all to see and consume — which is exactly what this entry feels like, now that I think about it — but to give you all something fresh in your inbox. By “fresh,” I mean different, offbeat. I don’t want you to spend part of your day reading something you could have read dozens of other places, like a Super Bowl prediction — I have absolutely no clue, FWIW. I’d rather you read why I wish people would stop saying that my favorite team would be there, contending at the end (like I did in my second issue of this newsletter), as in my mind, that’s a perfect representation of what goes on upstairs. These past few weeks, though, I’ve felt bogged down.
This isn’t a new feeling, and both fortunately and unfortunately, I find it almost exclusive to a format such as this one. Fortunately, because I’m able to churn out basketball/sports writing at a clip I’m satisfied with on a weekly basis, but unfortunately, because sometimes my mind is so bogged down by those thoughts that it becomes difficult to articulate the other ones I have. Thus, my newsletter suffers. (Of course, that issue is aided by the fact that I’m airing such a concern in my newsletter. That I can share this comfortably is a testament to the newsletter’s intentional lack of genre focus, as well as my trust in my readers. For that, I thank you.)
What do I do when I don’t know what to write about? That list is long, and honestly, it depends on my mood. I might take a walk, or go for a bike ride, and I’ll almost always listen to something — whether I choose a podcast or music is, again, dependent on my mood at that moment. I’ve been on a big podcast kick of late, but then again, when am I not? Oddly, I don’t mind looking borderline-schizophrenic as I cackle at a podcast whilst walking down the street. I can’t be faulted for what makes me laugh. But if it’s music, I’m an increasingly indefinable listener. You might find me tapping my fingers against my jeans to the beat of some pop-punk song my roommate introduced me to, or maybe I’m listening to a 10-minute breakup song that Taylor Swift happened to re-record and recently release, or maybe I’ve called up my favorite song of all time: the glorious, beautiful, endlessly hypnotizing “Clair de Lune.” I’m a jack of all tunes.
If I’m seeking out inspiration, I might watch a film or read a chapter of a book, primarily works of fiction, given that they tend to make me think the most about my life as it relates (or doesn’t) to the characters within. But perhaps more often than any of the previously mentioned routes I take, I’ll return to the works of writers I respect the most, to see what they’ve been thinking about lately. It was T.S. Eliot who once said “good writers borrow, great writers steal.” Seeing that I’d rather come up with something wholly original than nab a morsel of an idea from someone else and turn it into my own, I’m not sure I completely agree with Eliot, despite his greatness, but I’d also be lying if I said I never read someone else’s work in an effort to inspire my own.
Every week, I read the newest edition of Will Leitch’s newsletter — quite simply called “The Will Leitch Newsletter” — because I find his grasp of storytelling to be both entertaining and relatable. He’s a brilliant writer, on sports, movies, and everything in between, but even more so on life. In telling a story about his high school typing class, or his childhood home, or one of the many tales about his two boys, he always gets my mind churning about life in one way or another. You should subscribe; it’s free, just like mine.
In his latest essay, about that aforementioned typing class, he quoted Roger Ebert, who once said, “The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before. Don't wait for her. Start alone.” That’s a concept I appreciate quite a bit and plan to appropriate in my future written endeavors — “Good writers borrow, great writers steal” — which is ironic, considering the fact that I came upon in someone else’s writing, an essay that referenced someone else’s writing, a piece that led me to further seek out another writer’s writing…
I’ll end this issue hoping to have answered my own question. Writing feeds off passion and inspiration, but what is a writer to do when they have none, or at least feel as though they have none? It won’t work for everyone, but today, when I wasn’t sure what to write about, I didn’t take a walk, nor put on a film, nor listen to any music. I just sat down, began to write about not knowing what to write about, and something came of it.
On that journey, I started thinking about Leitch’s stories, and his Ebert reference in one of them. I didn’t intend to think about other writers and their work, and I didn’t plan on referencing my muses, if you will, by name, because when embarking on today’s written journey, I didn’t plan on having any muse to call upon. Like Ebert said, though, “The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before.” Unintentionally, I took his advice, didn’t wait for her, and started alone. Along the way, she appeared.
Though it’s often considered a romantic profession, the writing process can be quite the ugly gambit. Manuscripts are often left stained with bad ideas, or worse, no ideas at all. But I’m starting to find that those stains appear most often when we’re looking too hard for ways to avoid leaving them. Not everything is going to appear right before your eyes, suddenly beckoning your attention away from everything else. Where’s the fun in that? Instead, when the mind wanders, I recommend following it, and seeing where it leads you. Perhaps that’s where you were meant to end up all along.
I (somehow) find time to read a lot, watch a lot, and listen to a lot throughout my weeks here on the internet. Consumption Corner is where I’ll recommend some of the things I appreciated the most. They may be old, or they may be new, but from shows to films to books, I figure the least I can do is lend some insight into the things that make me the cultured young man that I am.
The Reading List:
Why Giannis Antetokounmpo Chose the Path of Most Resistance by Zach Baron (GQ)
Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well’ and the Weaponization of Memory by Lindsay Zoladz (The New York Times)
‘Pig’: Nicolas Cage’s Mythic Tale of Grief Is One of the Most Honest Movies About Mourning Ever Made by David Ehrlich (IndieWire)
Can a boxer return to the ring after killing? by Jacob Stern (The Atlantic)
How Kristen Stewart became her generation’s most interesting movie star by Emily Witt (The New Yorker)
He Should Be in High School. Instead He's in the G League. And He's the Future. by Howard Beck (Sports Illustrated)
The best writing music money doesn’t have to buy (because it’s on YouTube):
Pardon me, I’m floating away. Be back in a jiff.
And finally… what else I’ve written over the last two weeks:
The Cavs exploited the one thing the Knicks aren’t prepared to stop (The Knicks Wall)
A goodbye tweet:
Farewell, friends. ‘Til next time.