Story of a mediocre writer

The final chapter of "Story of a mediocre fan" was supposed to go out today, but I ran into an age old issue discovered by Blaise Pascal in 1657, when he famously apologised in a letter that:

I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.

I did some solid procrastination earlier this week, writing about a paragraph of the story on Monday, then about four more on Tuesday, and then got serious yesterday and wrote for a few hours, and then got really serious today and wrote for a few more hours and holy shit I have 5200 words and I don't have any time to make it shorter!

So I reached out to my friend Tim for advice, phrasing it something like "I can either make this simpler or I can keep going like this for another few thousand words and then split it somewhere into chapters 4 and 5 and halp!" This is one of those cases where I pretty much knew the answer when I asked the question. Simplicity is a virtue, and what I needed to do was find the essence of the story I was trying to tell, and then use only the words required to tell it.

Tim actually made a parallel between writing prose and writing software: feature creep. You know, the program has to do this one thing, but wouldn't it be cool if it also did this and that, and this module isn't as elegant as it could be, and let me just refactor this real quick, and all of a sudden you're left with a day or two before the thing must ship or else and now you've got to rush it into production and then you spend the next two years complaining about legacy and how you never have time to fix tech debt.

All because you could have made it simple but didn't.

So yeah, what I realised with Tim's help is that I'm trying to tell the story of how I became an Arsenal fan, and part one of that is how I fell in love with football / soccer, and why. A huge part of that story is people: playing Nintendo World Cup with Ryan, and playing actual football with those Mexican dudes in Harrisonburg and then Ayna and the Japanese guys at uni. So "why football?" has been answered. "Why Arsenal?" is the question I'm working on answering now. And the answer is again people. The futsal club in Japan that turned out to be an Arsenal supporters club, the people who wrote the great Arsenal blogs and recorded the great Arsenal podcasts, the fans I met when I finally had the chance to see Arsenal live, my son!

I know how to write that story. It just requires tossing out 4000 of the 5000 words I wrote and then writing about 2000 different ones. No sweat, right? 😅

What I'm learning here is that writing a long form piece requires structure and planning. I mean, I know that intellectually, since I wrote plenty of long form stuff back at William & Mary (I have a minor in English literature that I picked up somehow when I was trying to do a Computer Science degree). Structure and planning isn't always fun, and certainly is a great excuse to put off writing. When I set myself the challenge to write and publish something every day, I gave myself permission to just write without thinking, to remove the potential stumbling block of worrying if what I wrote would be any good. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't, and that's OK, because this is just my silly blog and I'm writing it for the express purpose of getting better at writing.

However, "Story of a mediocre fan" is not supposed to be just written off the cuff. It's supposed to be decent enough to be read by the thousands of Arsenal fans who read 7amkickoff, and in order to make sure that's the case, I need to approach it differently.

So now I have a plan, and now I'm going to take the dog out for a walk so that my brain can start putting the structure in place so that I can wake up in the morning, lose to Joanna at tennis, and then come back to this desk and put my hands back on this keyboard and write the story I'm supposed to be writing.

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Published: 2022-07-07

Tagged: arsenal writing