On Writing: “Strap Yourself to a Desk and Grind.”
I enjoy good sportswriters, mainly because I absolutely love sports, but also because I think sportswriting is among the best writing on the planet. Guys like Thomas Lake at SI, Bill Simmons, Rick Reilly, Gene Wojciechowski and the Grantland guys at ESPN, Jason Whitlock at Fox Sports, David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune–these guys are among my favorites and there are many more I read.
Sportswriters have to write quickly, on deadline, and have to write in a very tight fashion. They write for a very critical crowd: passionate sports fans. They have to be serious and funny and creative all at the same time, all without being too cute. Even if you don’t like sports (and if so, I’ll get on my knees and pray for your soul), you might appreciate sportswriting for the sheer value and quality of the writing.
Which leads me to a quote I heard on an edition of the Bill Simmons podcast. He was interviewing Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports (who is now moving to ESPN) about the nature of writing, his career, and getting published. Whitlock said a phrase that I think every aspiring writer/blogger/author needs to hear. He said that good writers succeed because they “strap themselves to a desk and grind.” In other words, good writers work hard at regularly, daily, grinding out content, working on their craft, laboring often in obscurity until they are good enough to be noticed.
This is a really, really good principle for today’s generation of writers. We live in an age of instant fame. And while sometimes something you write may go viral and make you instantly famous, mostly the way to success is to just work hard at producing good content while nobody is looking. The best sportswriters in America started somewhere obscure, in a small town grinding out columns about the local bowling league or something. The people whose work is being read, heard, digested are the ones who were willing to “strap themselves to a desk and grind.” There are no shortcuts to real, lasting, genuine success.
There is a connection here to Scripture. God has sovereignly bestowed on each of us good gifts and talents. It’s part of the Creation mandate to use our gifts to create things, to produce good work. We should work hard, not simply as an angle to fame and fortune, but because we take pride in our work. We want to do things well, to the glory of God. And any success we experience should come as the fruit of our labors. So let’s get busy and write well and put aside fleeting dreams of quick and easy fame.
*I feel I need a disclaimer here to say that I don’t always agree with all the content from guys like Simmons and Whitlock. Sometimes sports guys can be provocative. Christians should be discerning, picking the fruit from the rest.