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Aug 3 / King Kaufman

None of us is Hemingway, but we can become great writers

Brian LeighFor the Love of the Page is a series in which Bleacher Report Sportswriting Interns explain why they write.

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Ernest Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It’s catchy and aphoristic, but the bourbon-addled author left out one important qualification: There is nothing to writing … if your name is Ernest Hemingway.

The most important day of my writing career was the day I came to terms with my own mediocrity. In fifth grade I wrote a memoir called “Stitches and Staples,” a mostly fabricated recount of every time my brother got sent to the emergency room. The prose was impenetrable, but none of the adults in my life seemed to care––they acted like I had just penned “The Odyssey.”

From that day until my sophomore year of college, I wrote under the influence of something far more dangerous than alcohol: vanity. I thought I was a Hemingway, that I possessed some kind of gift that made writing easy.

It didn’t hit me until last year. I read an incredible article in Sports Illustrated, and afterwards, I had a cathartic moment of self-realization: “Holy crap. I can’t write a goddamn lick.”

I bring this up here, in my generously rationed 500-word allotment, because I think there’s an important lesson to be learned. None of us are Ernest Hemingway. Writing is never easy.

Once I accepted that, everything changed. Writing was no longer a contrived assignment for me to rush through; it was a creative art form for me to hone my craft in.

Tons of people love sports––enough to fill continents––and many think they’re qualified to be sportswriters. The way we must distinguish ourselves is by making a conscious, concerted effort to become more talented wordsmiths.

My experience at Bleacher Report, as both a sportswriting intern and a member of the TNT breaking news team, has been invaluable because it’s given me a medium and a reason to write every day. It’s forced me to force myself to become a better writer. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

I read great sportswriting every day, and from each piece I read, I take away one thing I like––a rhetorical device, a million-dollar vocab word or an obscure allusion to American history—and look for ways to emulate it in my B/R writing. If I make myself a slightly better writer each day, imagine the heights I can reach in a year.

I implore you to do the same, to force yourselves to get better. Turn off the bloviating idiots on “ESPN First Take” (even if you watch it ironically) and read some actual journalism.

Because once we train ourselves to be great writers, all we need to do is sit down at a computer and bleed.

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Brian Leigh is a Bleacher Report Correspondent. Follow him on Twitter at @BLeighDAT

  • Shaun Church

    Fantastic, Brian. Great work.

    And you are, in fact, a great writer.

    • Avi Wolfman-Arent

      Amen to that!

  • Brandon Burnett


  • Cinderellar

    OMG You are a fantastic writer and way handsome

  • Tamarapage

    Rock On!

  • Greg Pearl

    Well said, Brian, and a great read!

  • Tom Parker

    Could be wrong, but I always interpreted that quote as Hemingway saying that writing is really difficult. It was his way of contradicting people who thought that writing came easy to him. “Easy? Sure, you just sit at a typewriter and BLEED.” In other words, it’s a painful process. Even for Hemingway.