What do you tell someone who asks for advice on becoming a fantasy writer? I get this question a lot and depending who is asking and how it’s asked, I have a variety of answers. Today I hogged Twitter timelines to give an answer.
It’s not the only answer or the best answer. I’m going to add a few things to this post before I direct you to the Storify.com post where I collected the tweets for easier reading.
- Consider what kind of writer you want to be in this business. Do you want to contribute to a team and be satisfied with doing what they need from you? This is honorable, helpful work. Not everyone will be a headliner. Most of us do behind-the-scenes work or team-oriented tasks for our sites. One of the best team players and behind-the-scenes guys in this business is Clayton Gray at Footballguys.
- When I was getting started, a lot of people wanted to write a column “like Bill Simmons.” I did. But I realized I wasn’t Simmons or Ralph Wiley. Emulate work that you admire, but learn about who you are, what’s your true voice, and develop the skills to express it clearly.
- Nothing wrong with having a dream about what you want to do and sticking with it, but understand that your dream begins with smaller steps. You keep the prize in focus and work towards it even when you’re doing work that wasn’t a part of your plan. For the few of you who will read this and go onto do things that will blow away anything I could accomplish, you didn’t need to read this advice. At best, it was a small bit of encouragement during a bad moment. For the most of you who dream of being published and having a loyal following of football readers, you’ll learn soon enough if you want to do the dirty work, make the personal sacrifices, and persist at your craft.
- Fame-notoriety is dangerous. I’m not famous and I don’t want to be famous. I just want to be good at what I do. But I know that if I walked into an auditorium of Footballguys and/or RSP subscribers, I’d be known in a way that mimics some aspects of fame. I know what it’s like for colleagues at my day job to tell me that two students walked by my cinder block office in the bowels of an academic building and one said, “Isn’t it crazy that Matt Waldman works here?” It’s a weird thing. It’s not that much different from being a CEO of a company and walking into a room filled with 2,000 employees. All eyes are on you. There will be expectations about who you are and how you will act. Social media gives you that variant of fame. Once you develop a certain number of active followers–500, 1,500, 3,000 followers on Twitter (I don’t know what that number is)–there’s a psychological effect from the expectations that you encounter and how you handle them. If you gained this following being someone you really aren’t, you’re going to be expected to be someone who you’re not. That’s a hard thing to maintain. If you’ve gained your following being yourself, you still have challenges ahead. You have to constantly check yourself and make sure you’re being true to yourself but you’re also being the best behaved version of yourself. Bill Murray gets it right about fame. You also have to know what the consequences will be if you make statements that are pointing true north on your emotional-moral compass and that arrow is pointing towards a storm.
- If I give you feedback and it’s critical, understand that I’m coming from an honest place and trying to help you rather than tear you down. I want you to succeed. I can only share what I know. I had a writer ask me for feedback on his work a few years ago and I was critical. I tried to make clear that my intentions were to be helpful, but I was being honest about what I read. He wanted a job at Footballguys. With what I read at that point during his young career and what he wanted to do, I couldn’t vouch for him. He’s writing elsewhere and I see him occasionally. He has made it clear that he’s still disappointed and angry. Hopefully, he’ll realize that honesty was the best gift I could give him even if the gift he wanted was a recommendation to become a writer at Footbllguys. If he can use it as motivation to get better, good for him. Personally, I’d like to see him stop scowling at me and giving me the silent treatment when we cross paths but some people need to manufacture a chip on their shoulder.
Here’s the actual Twitter blitz on Storify for whatever it’s worth.
If you’d like me to write more about this topic I can schedule it into this blog. Just let me know.