No one has ever asked me how to become an internet baseball writer. In the event that somebody does do that someday, though, I’ve prepared the following document with a view to minimizing the potential horrors of interacting with a stranger.
1. Find Writers You Care About
This doesn’t necessarily mean other internet baseball writers. In fact, that’s probably precisely what it doesn’t mean. If you have ever said or thought “Reading is boring,” it’s probably because most books are boring and also that the act of reading itself is entirely tedious. When I was younger, I would read just so girls would notice me and then let me do things to them — like, in a sexual way, I mean. Then, as a junior in high school, I discovered the poems of James Tate, Charles Simic, and Kenneth Koch in rather rapid succession. They did things with words that I found very surprising and enjoyable — almost as enjoyable as the things I’d wanted to do to all those ladies.
2. Imitate Those Writers
For probably two or three years after discovering David Berman’s Actual Air, I tried to write precisely like David Berman does in that book. I’ve done a similar sort of thing for Arthur Rimbaud and the Roman poet Catullus and P.G. Wodehouse. I still spend about 30 minutes every day responding to a text in some way — sometimes imitating the author’s style, sometimes performing a sort of secular Lectio Divina with it.
3. Start a Dumb Blog, Write Daily
As an editor for NotGraphs, for example — and as someone, in that capacity, who’s occasionally tasked with hiring new writers — I’m always most interested in people who’ve produced regular content of their own accord. It may or may not be disheartenting to hear, but it’s entirely the case that, like, 90% of blogging is demonstrating the ability to produce content on a regular basis. Many people can produce one excellent blog post, given world enough and time; many fewer can produce, say, three or five or ten slighty-better-than-mediocre posts per week over an extended period of time. Also, when you write in your dumb blog, behave entirely like yourself in it.
4. Ask Questions of Established Writers
I was hired by FanGraphs because I’m talented and handsome, obviously — but also because, one day, I asked Jonah Keri via (an entirely charming) email, “Hey, in the event that I wanted to become a real internet baseball writer, how would I do that?” He graciously put me in touch with David Appelman and Dave Cameron. There was work to be done from there, but that was as good a start as one could imagine. In general, don’t hesitate to ask about a writer’s work and his path to that place. They probably won’t answer you (I probably wouldn’t, for example), but they might.
5. Get Comfortable with Failure
In writing, as in life, failure is the rule, not the exception. Get accustomed to it immediately.