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Writing tips with Will Leitch (via interview)

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If you've read any other sports blogs besides this one, then you've read Deadspin (or a sports blog inspired by Deadspin). Deadspin's founder, Will Leitch, is now a contributing editor at New York magazine. He's also a Cardinal's fan. In light of the Padres/Cardinals series and the recent release of his new (just in time for Father's Day) book, Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball, Will was kind enough to answer some questions for us as well as give us a few writing pointers.

Will Leitch: All right, let’s hit it!

Gaslamp Ball: You started Deadspin the same year that Gaslamp Ball got started. Now you're writing books, acting as a contributing editor at New York magazine and Deadspin is considered the most influential sports commentary site in America. Meanwhile Gaslamp Ball recently was forced to hide several sexually explicit comments containing photos of possibly underage girls. Do you feel like you got the better end of the deal? 

WL: Well, I had the advantage of doing it full time; had I just done what I REALLY would have wanted to do (write about the Cardinals, Woody Allen and Band of Horses every day), I suspect Deadspin might not have become whatever it is today. Which might be a good thing? I did have the advantage of drunken athlete photos. It’s funny how athlete penis photos have become the new athlete drunk photos. Is that a good thing? It is difficult to keep track. 

GLB: How does your book relate to Tony Gwynn Sr. and Tony Gwynn Jr.?  Where does Chris Gwynn, the crazy uncle, fit into all of this? 

WL: Most books about baseball are from the inside out; this is from the outside in. I have to think that book will be written someday, right, though? Tony Gwynn Jr.’s tell-all about Chris Gwynn? I have to think it will involve ursine copulation. And I’m not even sure what that is.

GLB: How does writing a book differ from writing a blog?

WL: It’s harder because there are fewer people telling me when I’m doing something stupid. The great thing about the Web is that when I make a mistake, or toss out an argument that isn’t entirely thought through, there are people who let me know, in real-time. In book world, I don’t know I’ve written something idiotic until many months later. That’s very intimidating. I honestly have no idea why people write books. It’s never worth it. Yet I plan on doing it as long as they let me.

GLB: Are there groupies on the book signing circuit?  Do bibliophiles throw themselves at you? How do you protect yourself?

WL: In my entire history of writing books, there has been one groupie. She is here.

Funny thing: That actually IS Annie Savoy.

GLB: If you could take credit for writing a book by a different author, what would it be?

WL: The Bible. Because then everyone would give me one-tenth of their salary.Well, not EVERYONE. But enough people to make it worthwhile.

GLB: Each day when I go to our blog, I feel like everything has already been said. How do you get past the writers block?

WL: Everything has always already been said. Every thought you have, in the vast span of human consciousness, someone else has had that thought. So you just have to try to come up with some new way of saying what is always being said, what has always been said, which is impossible. So stop trying to come up with something new. Release yourself from that. Just type what’s on your brain. The advantage you have is that someone out there will read what you are saying, think, "Whoa, that’s exactly what I was thinking" and see you as some sort of original thinker, even though they had the exact same thought that you did, which by definition nixes their evaluation of you. This is all to say: We’re all just pretending and wasting our time. But no one is ever "blocked" from wasting their time; that’s quite easy to do, actually. So I make writing my time wasting. This is how I pass the idle hours. I have many idle hours.

GLB: Do you see any irony at all in Buzz Bissinger's Twitter account? I've never seen a Pulitzer Prize winner use the phrase "douche juice" so frequently and with such gusto. I wonder what Bob Costas would think.

WL: As a general rule, I have found it smart to only interact with Buzz through his books and his edited magazine pieces, which are always more thoughtful and humanistic than the public persona of Buzz would lead one to believe. I try to pretend no other version of Buzz exists than the ones in those stories. It’s kind of similar to how I feel about athletes. I do not want to know if Albert Pujols is a crazy person, or an evil person, or one who produces vast amounts of spittle. I just want him to hit homers. I just want Buzz to write great books and articles. Outside of that, I find it better to take a step back and re-read "Friday Night Lights."

GLB:Thanks again and please tell Albert Pujols not to physically assault anybody on our team during this season's series.

WL: [no response]


Thanks again to Will Leitch. Be sure to buy yourself, your son, and/or your dad a copy of, Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball. High fives all around!