There’s no “I” in Bleacher Report: Other writers’ success helps you
I started writing for Bleacher Report a smidgen over two years ago. In that time I’ve come to learn an important lesson: Bleacher Report is more than a host for my articles, a place for me to publish my writing, or even the people who have signed my paychecks for the last year. Bleacher Report is a team, and we are that team.
When I started writing here, my goal was to become one of the top writers, and to a point I’ve achieved that goal. I’m not the most popular writer on B/R but I’ve managed to work my way into the top 50 in the different categories that Bleacher Report tracks. I don’t say that to boast—just to establish that I have some credentials.
When I started writing, though, I made a fundamental error. I thought of others who wrote about the same topics as “rivals.” If other writers were achieving more success than I was it was easy to dismiss their success as “luck” or just “getting featured.” I was a legend in my own my mind, just waiting to be discovered.
Then one day, literally as I was griping to myself, my common sense interrupted and asked me, “Don’t you think they’ve succeeded for a reason?”
So I switched my thinking and started looking at their success and considering that these writers were models of how to succeed. If I could identify and emulate the things they did to be successful, I could be successful too.
I started really reading what they wrote. The more I read the writing of the popular writers, the more I learned that maybe it wasn’t just luck, that they were getting featured for a reason. I noticed that they weren’t merely writing hyperbolic things to get noticed, but they were backing them up. I noticed that writers like Matt Miller were researching a great deal and learning about the sports they were writing about.
Lesson No. 1 was simple: If you only write what you already know, you’re article is going to fall short. You need to learn more than what you know if you want to write something worth reading, and in order to do that you have to learn what you don’t know. Pardon the Yogiism, but you get the point. It’s said that the person who learns the most in the classroom is the teacher. It should be the same when we write.
I can’t recall a single article I’ve written in over a year where I didn’t learn something in the process of writing the article, and the more I learn, the more certain I am that I don’t know that much. If learning about what you write is one of your favorite pastimes, you’ll be a great writer.
Lesson No. 2 is that the most successful writers have learned from their audience. Yes, there are trolls, but if we want to be informed writers, we can’t dismiss every negative comment as that of a troll. Sometimes critics are raising valid points. The best writers not only learn from their own research, they learn from the comments section.
Have you ever changed a position on an issue because of something a commenter raised? If not there’s a good chance you’re not giving enough respect to your readers.
Based on comments from readers I’ve learned to appreciate both Kobe Bryant and LeBron James more. I’ve learned about NBA history. I’ve learned an abundance of facts. I’ve learned how to accept and blend statistical analysis with eyeball analysis. I’ve even tweaked articles after publishing.
Our readers are a treasure trove of knowledge and we can mine that source by interacting with them.
Lesson No. 3 is that other writers’ success does not limit my success but bolsters it. Full disclosure here: I hated the whole idea of Swagger. Then I realized that a lot of people don’t—that’s why the section gets so many reads. That doesn’t mean that I have to write Swagger-related articles. It doesn’t even mean I need to read them.
It does mean that people are coming to Bleacher Report, and once they’re here, my writing has a greater chance of being read by them.
If someone reads “The 50 Most Beautiful Women Who Dated Chicago Bulls” and then sees my Derrick Rose article and reads it, that Swagger article has benefited me.
It might sound fundamentally obvious, but it slipped my narrow mind for a while. There aren’t a finite number of reads at Bleacher Report being parceled out.
This remains true even with writers who write on the same subject. One writer’s success doesn’t work against me, it works for me. When my peer and friend Adam Fromal gets a ton of reads in the NBA section, it doesn’t hinder my chances at success, it enhances it.
The only thing that limits my opportunity is the quality of my own writing. If my writing has merit, then when people see it they’ll recognize that. Adam’s success only increases the chances of me being seen.
Finally, there is one other lesson I’ve learned related to this. How we as Featured Columnists and writers interact with one another greatly affects how others will treat us. If we, the writers, both in our own articles and in those we comment on raise the level of discourse, it will raise the overall level of discourse on the whole site.
It’s much easier to do that when we approach the writer as a peer and teammate. If we cheer for their success we cheer for our own. Even if we challenge them, if we do so in the spirit of respectful debate, we raise the level of discourse. I believe that simply writing intelligent comments on other articles will result in increasing the “fans” you have on Bleacher Report.
What do we do when see a comment that gives us insight? I can’t speak for everyone but I tend to click on the commenter’s profile and see if they’ve written anything. I discovered many of my favorite writers on Bleacher Report not through the front page, but through the comments section.
Writing for Bleacher Report, I’ve been helped tremendously by the editors, who never get a byline but do amazing work to keep us all from looking stupid. I’ve also gotten help from fellow writers who might not have even known they were helping. Their help is there for you too, if you’re willing to receive it.
Remember, there’s no “I” in Bleacher Report.
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Kelly Scaletta is an NBA Featured Columnist.