1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Writing for mags like The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, etc.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    More than you want it to, but less than you think it does.

    I think it's obvious that merit isn't the only factor that gets people to where they are. We can all point to people we know who are lazy, who just aren't very good, etc., but yet they're making more money or have more prestigious gigs. That's the way of the world. Timing, luck, whatever you want to call it ... all that matters. But nobody can control those factors. And no, you can't control the natural ability (a.k.a. talent) that you have. Some people have more -- a lot more.

    But you can control how hard you work. And keeping your eyes/ears open so that when something does break right, you can take advantage of it.

    So don't worry about luck, even though it is a factor. It's not THAT big of a factor. Unless, of course, it is. Either way, it's out of your hands.
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I think knowing someone there helps more than luck. Having an editor there who will vouch for you is huge.
  3. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    Luck is huge, but what looks like luck from the outside often looks different when it happens to you. I was "lucky" when the first story I ever pitched to a magazine - without any bylines ever before - was bought, but if I hadn't pitched it, and hadn't cared enough to learn how to do so, and hadn't been stupid enough to think I could do so without bylines, and hadn't been arrogant enough to think that I could write as well as those I read, then "luck" never would have happened. I was "lucky" to land my first first book contract without an agent, but once again, I'd learned how to write a proposal and been turned down more than one hundred times. I was "lucky" when that book did well, and - well, you get the idea.

    Luck is when your talent, focus, timing, and hard work come together for an instant after a lifetime of working different sides of the room. And remember, you never "arrive" in this business. Every time you kick down one door, there is another one.
  4. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Marvelous, isn't it?
  5. I read here every day with one hope -- threads like this.
  6. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Luck plays a huge part.
    I got a freelance gig for a magazine because I waste so much time here.
    They liked what I did, and would keep me in mind for more work.
    Got another call asking for work from another outlet and that has mushroomed into even more work. The first magazine sent word that they'll be looking for more from me.
    I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    Jones, JG, Charlie Pierce, those guys. I'll never be in their weight class. And I know that.
    I'm okay with it.
    But since a little luck has come my way. I make a little money. Pay my bills and have a helluva good time.
  7. funky_mountain

    funky_mountain Active Member

    this is probably a nice time for someone more skilled at searching the site than i to dig up doubledown's eloquent post that doesn't makes us seem like failures in the midst of jgmacg and jones and all the other great writers who post here. maybe dd can help us out when he finds this thread.
  8. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Because like Frank_Ridgeway's clothes, this post never, ever goes out of style:

  9. Dickens Cider

    Dickens Cider New Member

    I'm still convinced that's the best thing that's ever been posted here.

    Jgmacg's 40 Theses is my favorite non-journalism post.
  10. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    OK, for starters, let's go back to Page 1. Jones, don't oversell your ability.
    This is one fat, old, bald guy who wouldn't cough up more than five bucks.

    But, seriously folks, people with tons more talent than I'll ever have already said qlenty of good stuff. Let me reinforce some of it. Twenty years ago, I went to a seminar and a sports editor - Mike McKenzie I think his name was - gave some simple advice that I use today.

    Words won't bail you out. Material will. Work harder than the next guy. Get more than the next guy.

    Jones' talent ain't shit without his work ethic. Take that "most gripping" story in Esquire this year that was, indeed, the most gripping. Shit-tons and shit-tons and shit-tons of work went into that. He had incredible material, gobs and gobs of incredible material. And the talent to pull it all together. Which he did quite well.
    Without the material, he ain't got shit except my five bucks.

    My kid is pretty bright. I told him forever: Your intelligence doesn't do a thing for you. You need the D word - diligence. Once he figured that out and combined that diligence with his intelligence, he started kicking ass.

    Work your ass off. People WILL notice. Then work even harder.
  11. Ch.B

    Ch.B New Member

    I know it’s presumptuous for the new guy to be doing anything more than grabbing a round of cold ones and dispensing them to the SportsJournalists.com elders, but I’m going to give it a go anyway…

    On the topic of talent, by whatever definition:

    Some years ago, I spent the better part of two days deconstructing Jeff MacGregor’s brilliant SI piece on rattlesnakes from 1998. If you haven’t read it, the link is here: http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1013432/index.htm

    I tried to work backward, from envisioning his structure to his reporting to his brainstorming. And, for the most part, I understood how he did it. Except for the writing. I could spend a month on a sentence and not be able to construct one as simultaneously funny, knowing and informative. Take, for example, his intro to the meat of the piece:

    Picture the Rattlesnake Derby as sort of a county fair grafted onto a giant flea market next to a carnival midway, all of it operating contemporaneous to and under the auspices of what amounts to a potentially deadly bass-fishing tournament.

    You can’t diagram that kind of writing. And you certainly can’t mimic it.

    Not that I didn’t try, of course. For a good six months, every story I wrote for my place of employ went through a draft or two where it read like really bad MacGregor. Profile of an NBA player? Why not start the feature with a winding, kinetic scene lede designed to be both comic and insanely descriptive. That went about as well as you’d imagine.

    My conclusion, naturally, was that I was screwed. I couldn’t write like MacGregor - or David Foster Wallace or Steve Rushin, for that matter. Ergo, there must be a cap on my ‘talent,’ and therefore on the quality of my writing.

    Since then, I’ve come to the realization – probably obvious to others, but it wasn’t to me – that I bet Steve Rushin can’t write like Jeff MacGregor either. And in turn, MacGregor probably can’t write like Charlie Pierce. That’s what makes all of them so good; they have a unique voice. And perhaps, just perhaps, I should spend less time trying to write like MacGregor or Pierce and more time trying to write like, well, me.

    This is not to say you can’t learn a ton from studying these other writers, and trying out their styles. I certainly did. But in the end, it’s your voice that matters. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping.
  12. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    I've had very little success in this business over a fair amount of time, but enough to keep me coming back for more, and my firm belief is that it all comes down to self-confidence.

    Don't believe in your work or yourself, and you never even have to read this thread.

    Keep knocking. On a lot of doors. Until someone says yes.

    And work like a bulldog, too.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page