Writing

Jonathan Willis
November 13 2010 10:32AM

It’s been a lot of fun, writing here for the Nation family of sites .

(Tosses aside flagrant attempt to get page views with a sentence oddly suggestive of quitting.)

It has been a lot of fun. I get to spout off about the Oilers and hockey with minimal editorial control, rub shoulders with bona fide mainstream media guys – one of which I’ve respected ever since I started reading his work as a teenager – and engage with Oilers fans from all around the world. How often would a fan like me get a chance to ask a guy like Jason Gregor a question, and see Gregor bring that question to a player or coach? Not often.

I open with this to make it clear I’m not complaining – this experience has been a blast, and I wouldn’t trade it.

That said, I’m curious what people think the motivation of a writer here is. Getting beyond the obvious – the things I just pointed to, and the bag of tarnished gold coins a disreputable man drops off at my home once a month – there’s a much bigger factor that keeps me popping out articles: I like to write about things I like to write about. If I didn’t get to grab whatever topic popped into my head and run as far and fast with it as I wanted to, none of those other things would matter; it’s too much work to write if you don’t genuinely enjoy it.

That’s why I’m always amused by comments like the one Ducey made to Robin Brownlee yesterday:

As usual Brownlee you miss the point. Everything you write is about the media. But this is a hockey blog. Who gives a hoot about how he is treated in the media? The question is whether he is playing well…

Ducey went on to discuss Khabibulin, but it’s the first few lines I wanted to key in on. The suggestion there is that because Oilers Nation is primarily about hockey, the readers have the right to demand that Brownlee not discuss a related issue (how it plays in the media) and instead limit himself to the actual hockey being played.

The truth is that neither Ducey, nor any of the other readers here, have the right to dictate content. It’s something that seems to happen a fair bit, when Person X’s pet peeve isn’t getting the play he feels it deserves, or something he likes is (in his view) getting an unfairly rough go of it.

The main reason for that is that it wouldn’t work – people write about what they’re passionate about, what they’re interested in, what they feel they can do justice to (at least on blogs; I’m sure the MSM guys have written a thing or two that bored them for their more high-paying gigs). If anyone started having the power to dictate what I wrote, I’d pack my bags and wander someplace else. The primary motivation, the thing that got me started blogging, was the joy I took in it, and as long as writing is a sideline to a demanding full-time job, the fun of it is what keeps me going.

So by all means, keep tossing out suggestions (as many of you have) and keep critiquing the work itself. That’s part of the fun.

Just don’t expect to be able to dictate what other people write. If you feel strongly that something needs to be said, or need that kind of control, do what I did: go do it yourself.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Senator Theo
November 13 2010, 10:38AM
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The thing I like best about this site is that each writer's pieces are painted with the brush of that writer's experiences, interests and backgrounds.

I can't imgaine why anyone would want all the articles to have the same flavor and perspective.

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#2 positivebrontefan
November 13 2010, 10:38AM
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Let me be the FIST to say i enjoy your work.

Edit... Doh!

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#3 Ambassador humantorch
November 13 2010, 10:45AM
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I love the fact that every writer here is vastly different. Willis throws out stats like nobody else, Lowetide knows more about baseball than anyone else in the universe, Gregor likes ice girls, Brownlee has the perspective of a beat writer that travelled with the team, Wanye posts drunk, etc etc etc.

That's what makes this place so awesome.

A+++ blog, would read again!

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#4 Wanyes bastard child
November 13 2010, 10:46AM
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~This article has nothing to do with hockey, im disappointed with you Willis and will forever more boycott anything non-hockey related ... for shame, for SHAME!~

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#5 Butters
November 13 2010, 10:49AM
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Do you take suggestions for topics? We had a discussion at work about the Oilers of the 80s. Paul Coffey's offensive stats aside, how good was the Oiler's defense? I would be intersted in your take. I am long in the tooth and short in memory.

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#6 Robin Brownlee
November 13 2010, 10:56AM
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Jon: As you can appreciate, the numbers say a helluva lot of people read what we write here.

I don't even need to look at those numbers (there's a surprise) to know that. I get a lot of feedback in the rink, around town and beyond about this website. The vast majority of it is positive and most of it is based on the diversity of what can be found here. We don't need to be patting each other on the back all the time. We don't need to be of like minds or interests as writers to make it work.

We are what we are because of the different approaches we take. That's a good thing.

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#8 Pension Plan Puppets
November 13 2010, 10:58AM
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Amen Willis. If you don't like what you read on a free blog then grab your keyboard and start pounding out what you want to read.

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#9 Dodd
November 13 2010, 11:00AM
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I'll start by saying that I love this site, and the "Wild West" style of writing anything you want, and if the readers don't like it, fine.

I regularly overlook the typos and other crap that we don't see with higher profile media because I know I'm getting raw opinion, straight, no chaser.

Trouble is, it's a 2-way street. I think you may be wrong, JW, in assuming that because an ON poster takes issue with writing content or style that they want to dictate what is written here.

I highly doubt that anyone who disagrees with a point or suggests that a writer here is looking at something from the wrong angle wants to "dictate" or censor what the author says. We throw dirtlumps at each other here all the time. They're called opinions. You get yours and we get ours.

Telling readers to "write it yourself if you don't like it" is like me saying "stop writing here if you don't like the responses". Makes no sense.

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#12 Pension Plan Puppets
November 13 2010, 11:10AM
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Dodd - There are plenty of typos and wrong information in MSM writing as well and that's with editors.

And how is that comment by Ducey not trying to dictate what is written?

Either way, the beauty of the blogosphere is that everyone's background is different. So instead of the same j-school topics you get MC79 writing from a legal perspective or Bitter Leaf writing from a communication and PR perspective.

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#13 ubermiguel
November 13 2010, 11:11AM
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Before I found the Nation I thought sports writing was supposed to be bland personality-free fluff.

Viva the Nation!

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#14 Woogie
November 13 2010, 11:17AM
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This article is CRAP!

I kid... I kid.

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#15 Robin Brownlee
November 13 2010, 11:20AM
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Woogie wrote:

This article is CRAP!

I kid... I kid.

Don't make me run your ass . . .

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#16 Lowetide
November 13 2010, 11:23AM
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I get a lot of people at work saying "can you introduce me to Wanye?" Life is so unfair!

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#17 Dodd
November 13 2010, 11:24AM
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@Willis @Pension Plan

Just because someone says "Your view on this is always from xx or yy and therefore is flawed" is a criticism.

If I disagree with someone who thinks we should trade Penner, I'm not telling them "you should have written that we shouldn't trade Penner".

If an ON reader thinks an article is written from the wrong perspective and voices it, I think this "don't tell me what to write" is overboard.

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#19 Woogie
November 13 2010, 11:27AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Don't make me run your ass . . .

I guess you didn't see the irony in my comment or you decided to ignore it.

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#21 Dodd
November 13 2010, 11:31AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Woogie:

Ironically, you appear to have missed Robin's ironic reply to your ironic comment.

The real question: am I still employing the correct usage of "ironic"?

Could it be ironic when a professional writer incorrectly uses "ironic"?

Get Alanis on the phone. Wait... she doesn't know either.

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#22 David S
November 13 2010, 11:38AM
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Woogie wrote:

I guess you didn't see the irony in my comment or you decided to ignore it.

I guess you didn't see the irony in Robin's comment, or you decided to ignore it.

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#23 David S
November 13 2010, 11:40AM
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This thread reeks of irony for some reason.

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#24 Rogue
November 13 2010, 11:44AM
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Ebony and irony......

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#25 isolatedoilerfan
November 13 2010, 11:48AM
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Being so far removed from anything hockey means that you guys are my primary source for Oilers insight. I appreciate this site and it's writers immensely.

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#26 Robin Brownlee
November 13 2010, 12:07PM
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isolatedoilerfan wrote:

Being so far removed from anything hockey means that you guys are my primary source for Oilers insight. I appreciate this site and it's writers immensely.

You are clearly an educated, intelligent person with an eye for great writing.

And it should be "its" not "it's" in your sentence. Just saying . . .

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#27 Kaiser Wilhelm
November 13 2010, 12:07PM
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Frankly, I think the Russian Roulette style of article topics is one of the main reasons Oilersnation is one of my top three websites to visit every day. Whether it's Lowetide's insights, Brownlee blowing up some punk commenter, Gregor talking about the Esks/Rush (Hey, I know it's an Oilers site, but frankly--as Jon has put it so well--if someone has an opinion on something, post about it; I'll sure read it) or Wayne's imitation of a drunken Kim Jong Il (sans the nuclear missiles--I hope), the read is always entertaining and informative.

As for the motivation of the writers, I can appreciate the frustration of being ripped apart by a bunch of figurative jackals every time you write a comment someone dislikes. However, in the end, free speech is one of the most important rights we have, even if it is mostly taken for granted. And how much fun would it be if we all got along?

Keep up the good work

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#28 Chris.
November 13 2010, 12:17PM
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@ Willis:

I'm guessing the most frusterating aspect of writing on an interactive blog is when members of the readership spin a simple and concise statement into a monolithic generalization on your behalf.... and then argue against it.

For example: Willis could write: Sam Gagner had a tough evening five on five. Then Gagnerf@n_69 responds with a strong and emotional rebuttal saying that Johnathan is completely wrong to suggest that Gagner isn't ready to play tough first line minutes. Fifty follow up posts ensue with people making all kinds of arguments for an against the ~Willis~ assertion that Gagner needs to be sheltered from top opposition... Auuggh!

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#29 oilers4life1979
November 13 2010, 12:20PM
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It is interesting, because as an individual, you can not only choose when to write, but you can also choose where and when you get stuff to read.

I just officially registered for the site today, but have been reading "stuff" here for a little while now. Today, I am choosing to write a comment based upon something I read... The cool thing is I have the opportunity to do so.

If I wanted to, I could just read the article and not read any of the comments. But interestingly enough, its the comments that provide the insight. What are other people thinking; do they feel the same as I do, or differently? Why do they feel differently and will their comments sway me to change my mind about how I feel or interpret a situation or topic?

Oilers Nation's content is refreshing because it's not contributed by from a bunch of lemmings... unless the fact we all care so deeply about the Oilers franchise makes us lemmings... you decide.

I will continue to choose to "read" and also choose to "contribute" from time to time.

BTW, comments are always appreciated... Oh, and if I do not have thick enough skin to handle the comments or criticism, I can "choose" to remain silent! FAT CHANCE THOUGH!! MUA HA HA HA

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#32 Corey Pronman
November 13 2010, 12:25PM
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Could you stop writing about this junk and stick to hockey goddammit /sarcasm

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#33 Robin Brownlee
November 13 2010, 12:30PM
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Corey Pronman wrote:

Could you stop writing about this junk and stick to hockey goddammit /sarcasm

No. No, we can't.

I'm going to write about buying fake Rolex watches and eating contests in New York later today. OK with you?

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#34 Chris.
November 13 2010, 12:31PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Okay. Bad example.

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#35 Brandy
November 13 2010, 12:53PM
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I love how Gregor gets pegged as a guy who likes Ice Girls and writes about Esks and Rush. His writing has improved the most on here. Brownlee was already very good. Gregor writes loads of great hockey stuff. And for my money his article on his father was the best thing I've read in any paper of blog in a year.

I really enjoy this site. First time poster, but I always think Gregor is undervalued on here. Good writer, good insight, interacts with posters, smart and dumb ones, and even bought my brother some shots a while back while out for his stag. I think he and his buddies have a man crush on Gregor now.

I enjoy the diversity of the writers and outside of a few immature posters, the comments are good. Keep it up.

Brandy

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#36 @NateInVegas
November 13 2010, 01:02PM
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Can someone write an article about #4's inability to keep two hands on his stick?

And a serious article about converting him to RW.

#4 hijacks RW once he leaves the zone might as well keep him on that side.

Count how often it happens V Rangers, just a suggestion..

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#37 Wanyes bastard child
November 13 2010, 01:16PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

No. No, we can't.

I'm going to write about buying fake Rolex watches and eating contests in New York later today. OK with you?

I'd be up for eating contests in New York :)

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#38 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
November 13 2010, 01:18PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Dodd:

Definitely. We all have a right to opinions. And we all have a right to comment on coverage.

We just don't have the ability to change what someone else writes about, or the authority to decide what the point of someone else's article is or should be.

~sadly that very theory is what keeps Madjam coming back here~

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#39 Oilers4ever
November 13 2010, 02:53PM
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I give all you guys props and credit for what you do, even if I don't always agree with what you say. Fact is you can get the inside story on some things with the team that you won't say from places like Global, TSN, Sportsnet, etc... And for that, you are applauded. And the non-hockey stories definately can be insightful....

My only complaint is I raised a question about a week back with the Oil's dman issues if it would be worth trying to go after Jack Johnson in LA... and no one responded!! I'd still like that answered as I think he's a good D and wonder if shipping Penner that way for him and maybe something else would ever fly??

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#40 marconiusE
November 13 2010, 03:06PM
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Not trying to be a douche, just something I've never quite understood:

Wouldn't the "its" in your example require an apostrophe because it's the possessive? (The site possesses it's writers, no?)

it's = it is contraction it's = possessive its = ?

I know I could probably look this up somewhere, but now I can tell people it wasn't my highschool english teacher that taught me the difference, it was the legendary Brownlee ;)

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#41 Hemmertime
November 13 2010, 03:22PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Don't make me run your ass . . .

That sounds sexual

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#42 Dodd
November 13 2010, 03:44PM
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marconiusE wrote:

Not trying to be a douche, just something I've never quite understood:

Wouldn't the "its" in your example require an apostrophe because it's the possessive? (The site possesses it's writers, no?)

it's = it is contraction it's = possessive its = ?

I know I could probably look this up somewhere, but now I can tell people it wasn't my highschool english teacher that taught me the difference, it was the legendary Brownlee ;)

"it's" = "it is".

"its" = it possesses.

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#43 Ducey
November 13 2010, 03:49PM
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Wow, I am famous!

I am also surprised how thin skinned some of the writers are at ON.

Don't criticise the cabal, or Willis will accuse you of dictating what is written, or Brownlee will "run your ass".

For goodness sake fellas, you can't write about how much you love being able to write whatever you want, and then get peeved someone doesn't agree with it.

How the hell does a poster "dictate" what you write? We can't. But we should be able to be critical. Or is this site sponsored by North Korea?

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#44 D-Man
November 13 2010, 03:51PM
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Oilers4ever wrote:

I give all you guys props and credit for what you do, even if I don't always agree with what you say. Fact is you can get the inside story on some things with the team that you won't say from places like Global, TSN, Sportsnet, etc... And for that, you are applauded. And the non-hockey stories definately can be insightful....

My only complaint is I raised a question about a week back with the Oil's dman issues if it would be worth trying to go after Jack Johnson in LA... and no one responded!! I'd still like that answered as I think he's a good D and wonder if shipping Penner that way for him and maybe something else would ever fly??

I'd definitely like Johnson in an Oiler uniform, but I don't know if there would be any room for Penner in their top six... The Kings have Smyth, Brown and Ponikarvsky on their LW right now... Penner would have to fit somewhere there... I also don't think you could get Johnson for Penner straight across either... You'd probably have to give up a draft pick or prospect as well.. I don't know where LA is in regards to the cap, but I can't imagine they have too much space to take on much more salary...

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#45 D-Man
November 13 2010, 03:51PM
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Ducey wrote:

Wow, I am famous!

I am also surprised how thin skinned some of the writers are at ON.

Don't criticise the cabal, or Willis will accuse you of dictating what is written, or Brownlee will "run your ass".

For goodness sake fellas, you can't write about how much you love being able to write whatever you want, and then get peeved someone doesn't agree with it.

How the hell does a poster "dictate" what you write? We can't. But we should be able to be critical. Or is this site sponsored by North Korea?

Isn't Wanye North Korean??

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#46 oilers4life1979
November 13 2010, 04:10PM
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@marconiusE

It is can be it's, it belongs to could be it's - but if you want to harp on that stuff, that is your write! (oh wait, right, write... CRAP this darn English language is confusing... I might need a mnemonic device!)

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#47 SmellOfVictory
November 13 2010, 04:19PM
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Dodd wrote:

"it's" = "it is".

"its" = it possesses.

This is correct. The possessive form of 'it' never has an apostrophy, while a contraction always will.

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#48 sizedoesmatter
November 13 2010, 04:30PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

This is correct. The possessive form of 'it' never has an apostrophy, while a contraction always will.

"it's" = "it is". It,s what it,s

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#49 oilers4life1979
November 13 2010, 04:35PM
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@oilers4life1979

see, I am wrong again! ha ha ha

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#50 jeanshorts
November 13 2010, 04:36PM
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I never would have guess you've respected Wanye since you were a teenager.

And these people that come on here and constantly complain about the content really need to exam their lives. As everyone says on here, on a pretty much daily basis sadly, if you don't like the content don't read it. It's kind of like asking someone to do a magic trick for you and then yelling at them because you hate magic.

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