AG: OK, let's talk about your ESPN.com blog. As someone who works from home and writes every day, I'm always curious about this: What's your average day of work like?This was interesting to me because I have found writing more formal columns and structured things like book reviews to be way harder than blogging in my experience. I'm not sure exactly why this is, but I think it comes down to the nature of columns vs. the nature of blogs and the given writer's experience.
RN: I have a regular job now! When I was writing columns--basically, the summer of 1996 through the winter of 2007--I didn't have any sort of real routine. Don't let anyone fool you: writing columns for a living is one of the easiest gigs around; I mean, assuming you've got the requisite discipline and talent. That's why so many columnists write books: they've got plenty of time on their hands and figure they should be doing something with their off days.
Blogging, though? It's like a real job. I get up early every morning and start scouring the Web looking for stuff I can use. And of course the process never really ends; I'm always worried about the guy who's smarter than me, more committed than me, funnier than me.
Though there are obvious exceptions, a whole lot of blogging is about reacting to things ("here are the five reasons why this guy is full of crap . . ."), while columns are far more often about creating and putting forth ideas ("I've been thinking about sacrifice bunts lately, and here is what I have found . . .").
For better and for worse, legal training causes one to sort of sit back in a sour way and react to things. To be a gatekeeper. To tell people why something is wrong with an idea, an argument, or a claim. It's a pretty handy skill to have in an adversarial world, but at bottom it seldom lends itself to actually creating anything. Much the same can be said about blogging, and it's probably no accident that so many prominent bloggers are or were lawyers at some point.
While the Jay Mariottis of the world have done much to ruin column writing, good columnists are still about putting forth ideas and making constructive observations about the world. I don't think I'm too far gone yet, but after ten years of telling people why they can't do things, it's really hard for me to write with the open mind required of a good column. Despite his reputation as a debunker, Neyer's training with Bill James and his pre-blogging experience was rooted in an inherent curiosity about things that lends itself more naturally to columns.
Maybe that's an oversimplification, but it makes sense to me. It's also why I think, despite the rise of blogging, we still need good columnists out there.