Irked

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 7.53.24 AMChris Wesseling is a writer for NFL.com. An excellent writer. I’d never read his stuff before last night, but what I saw was quite good.

In other words, I have no prior experience with Chris and no beef whatsoever. There’s no reason to think he’s anything but a decent guy.

However …

Late last night, after wrapping up some work, I scanned my Twitter feed to find the above Tweet from Chris, which read, LOVE SHOWTIME. I’LL BUY YOU SIX HIGH-OCTAINE BEERS OF YOUR CHOICE IF YOU NEVER AGAIN START A SENTENCE WITH “WHY, …” #JEEPERS

Again, I don’t know Chris. But this really rubbed me wrongly. When I responded, Chris wrote something nice, then added, ARE YOU SO ACCOMPLISHED YOU CAN’T ACCEPT ADVICE FROM A NO-NAME? This rubbed me even more wrongly. Here’s why …

I have notoriously thin skin. I’ve written about it, other people have written about it. It’s not as thin as it once was, but it still has a paper-like quality. This, however, isn’t about skin thickness. It really isn’t. It’s about, well, decency. Or, maybe, courtesy. I have no problem with Chris’ literal criticism. He’s surely right—as anyone who has written a book will tell you, one of the great (and often unavoidable) challenges comes in the repeated reliance on go-to phrases and words. Throughout my career, I’ve used more hences and whereases than one can possibly think of. Then, just when I start cutting down, other crutches move in. I have yet to go back through Showtime, but I have no doubt Chris is correct. “Why, …” is something I like. Nah, love. But to overuse it is to kill it. I’m sure I did this.

So, again, Chris is certainly correct—and he’s now damned me to go through the pre-paperback release counting the number of “Why, …” I use. However, I have a problem with writers ripping the writing of other writers (that was an unexpectedly fun sentence to write). I’m NOT talking about content. To me, that’s 100-percent fair game. You’re too hard on James Worthy. You should have focused more on Kareem. Etc … etc. But writing is a fucking beast. Chris knows it. I know it. It’s hard and draining and—as Gary Smith has often said—every word matters. You slave over this shit. You comb through it. You dig and pierce and seek and search. It’s painful. Absolutely painful. And a book is really painful—180,000 words of doubt and angst and torture. I’m not complaining. I have the best gig in the world. But it comes with a certain element of self-mutilation.

Chris’ comment, therefore, rubbed me like sandpaper on skin. He could have e-mailed me or DMed me—”Just a quick suggestion … I noticed you used this one phrase a lot …”—and I would have genuinely appreciated it. One writer helping another writer. Painful? Maybe a tad. But appreciated. To me, a writer slapping a writing insult on Twitter isn’t that. It’s kinda mean, and shows a lack of appreciation for how difficult these tasks are. It’s the equivalent of, “I like you a lot, but … you smell like dogshit. But I mean no offense.”

Anyhow, it’s an interesting topic, so I wrote this post. I have no ill will toward Chris. Literally, zero.

But I wish he didn’t suck at writing (kidding … kidding).

PS: One important thing: I don’t think of myself as accomplished. I’m not just saying that. Chris has a fucking job—he actually is accomplished. I bounce from book to book, just hoping it sells and this dream continues. I have no real grasp of where my career is, and how I’m perceived. I sit in coffee shops, research, hope it all works out.

3 thoughts on “Irked”

  1. Again with the self-flagellation. Jeff, you write for a living. You get paid by magazines and book publishers. That is fucking accomplished. Why do you hate yourself some days? “Showtime” just made top 12 NYT bestseller. But you’re still miserable. I don’t get it.

  2. Jeff — I appreciate your candor in this post. (I didn’t get the “Superman’s dad” ref, btw.) I think you aren’t giving yourself enough credit — I know it’s hard to write and see things in the “long term.” People look at freelancers and think they have the best job in the world, and there is definitely something to be said for the freedom, the creativity, etc. However, there’s also something to be said for good pay, steady benefits, the camaraderie of co-workers, etc.

    And I think Chris might actually be a little jealous — people know your work, but there are many football writers out there. (I say this knowing nothing about him, his work, or his personality.) Your book is kind of blowing up — there’s probably a little, “Damn, why didn’t I write this?” at-play here.

    Anyway, try not to sweat it. You’re kind of kicking ass.

    PS: I got on Facebook one night a few years back after drinking a few (never a good idea), and took a stupid shot at you. (I said something about how you go on FB, post something provocative, then don’t interact with your readers.) You very patiently and calmly disagreed, so… I dunno, your skin doesn’t seem overly thin to me.

  3. It’s definitely an insult. There isn’t any arguing that, and I find his response and going on the defensive to be perplexing and weird. The cynic in me says that it’s just him being passive-aggressive and not wanting to take responsibility for his words.

    Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I have to assume he just doesn’t know how to interact with people.

Leave a Reply