How I Describe Myself as a Creator
Plus a summary of my journey to this point and future ambitions.
I’m often told the importance of having an elevator pitch.
To be able to, in roughly 30 seconds, crystallize my identity: who I am, what I’m interested in, and what my career goals are.
It’s difficult to know when you’re going to meet someone that can provide you with an opportunity, so it’s valuable to be ready at a moment’s notice to give a brief introduction of yourself.
Yet, I’ve always struggled with this.
Because the truth is, I don’t have a simple explanation for the type of content that I like to make or what I hope to be doing in the future. For me, each of those questions has many answers. I have no intention of limiting myself to a certain genre or medium. A lot of what I do is completely unrelated to each other, and I think that’s cool.
I have no “dream job”. I find the concept itself to be overrated and somewhat problematic, although it obviously makes talking to people a lot easier and life feel more navigable if you have one.
This is accurate, but it’s also just a small portion of the things I currently make and want to make in the future. It’s also something that, before roughly two years ago (and remember, I’ve been doing this for more than seven years), wasn’t true at all.
Maybe at some point, my aspirations will become easier to distill, although I kind of hope not. Again, I want to be able to do many different things.
So, in lieu of having an elevator pitch, I want to take this opportunity to do the opposite and layout how I see myself as a creator more in-depth than I ever have before, at least publicly.
The first thing that I really want to convey is that more than a writer or a sports content creator, I think of myself as someone that has a lot of ideas.
I spend a ton of time just thinking about anything and everything. I love to research random topics. I watch lots of educational and intellectually stimulating content on YouTube. I listen to plenty of lectures and long-form interviews. I’m a prolific user of the Notes app. I’m constantly putting myself in situations where I’m engaging with ideas and I write down any original thoughts I have or things that interest me.
I’m a thinker, and writing is the predominant way that I express those thoughts. And since sports have always been one of my biggest passions (and since sports media is a visible career option), the majority of my content thus far has been sports-related (and sports will likely always be a major focus for me).
This idea of being more about, well, ideas, than anything else is certainly reflected in the content I’ve made, even since the beginning. When I started out, my content was a lot of columns and thought pieces mixed with predictions and power rankings. I was doing some NFL podcasting back then, too, but more along the lines of discussing storylines and making game picks than anything related to storytelling.
Everything was “here’s a topic, here’s what I think about it, and here’s why.” It was all very classic sports blogger, although I always tried to be very structured and logically sound in my arguments — rather than being a biased fan or a hot-take artist.
I was still diverse in my content. I wrote about all kinds of different sports and sports issues and experimented with series like Take 5, where I would give my opinion on five trending stories, and Gripes with Sports Fans, where I would examine the worst parts of fan culture.
I started my bracketology back in 2015, which I still do annually, and really just continued to write as much as possible because 1) I enjoyed it, 2) I knew I potentially wanted to make a career out of it, and 3) I knew that the best way to improve as a writer is to write.
“NBA Disparity and Changing the Playoffs”, which I published in November 2015, was a big milestone for me. I had made well over 100 blog posts in almost 18 months by that point, but that was the first thing that I remember putting real significant work over the course of multiple weeks into writing. I thought it could have been something of a breakthrough for me at the time, and while that didn’t end up happening, I linked it here because I’m still very proud of 16-year-old me.
I really have always just wanted to write about the things that interest me. In high school, I joined the school newspaper, but I didn’t write much for it. There were a few reasons why, including me being the only guy on the paper and being frustrated that most of the people didn’t seem to take writing seriously.
However, the biggest reason was that I didn’t have the freedom to write about whatever I wanted to write about. I was able to do a few columns on Houston sports teams and a bit of writing about our high school’s teams, but even though that’s how local newspapers operate (a.k.a. cover what’s relevant in the area), I couldn’t bring myself to be that interested.
At the University of Texas, I similarly had no desire to be a beat reporter for some random sport, and ultimately kept making my own content on the side rather than join the school paper.
Even as a Northwestern graduate journalism student, I did beat reporting and covered local news events but saw that merely as work that needed to be accomplished so I could write and make the things that I wanted to.
Obviously, everyone has their different interests, and I acknowledge the value of good journalism and enjoy reading it. But for me, I don’t consider myself a journalist.
That could still change in the future. However, to this point, I’ve never been excited by the idea of talking to people, finding the story, and telling the story, whatever that may be.
Similarly, I think I’m a good writer and I put a lot of effort into the things I write, but I’ve never tried to amaze people with my command of the English language. I’m not trying to break out the thesaurus or have the best metaphors, although I still can be just as proud of a good sentence as the next person.
I don’t want people to read my writing and think “that guy’s a great writer.” I don’t want my writing style to really be noticed at all. I’m trying to be engaging and communicate my ideas or tell the stories that I find interesting as effectively as possible.
I continued that “blogger” style for a while. I spent parts of the year as an NFL expert, which probably peaked with “Direct Snap,” a weekly Facebook Live stream I ran throughout the 2018 regular season. It was an hour-long talk show featuring my own visuals that combined the storyline discussions of my previous NFL podcasts with the power rankings and weekly picks that had formerly been articles. (In particular, I used to write these huge, 3–4,000+ word weekly power rankings columns modeled after Elliot Harrison’s.) These shows are still archived on YouTube.
Other times of the year, I was mainly a bracketologist and college basketball analyst. In between, I wrote about all kinds of things. I also took some breaks as I balanced my desire to keep following my passions with frustrations surrounding my inability to gain any kind of traction.
2019 was a major turning point year for me. Over the course of the year, I made a couple of important realizations. The first was that I wanted to emphasize experimentation and uniqueness even more than I had been previously. I wanted to be able to stand out, and meant trying new things and writing things I hadn’t seen anywhere else.
I knew that a lot of other people trying to break into sports media were writing for their school papers, and while that gives great experience and has plenty of advantages, it’s always seemed to me that it leaves everyone with a very similar-looking resume. I was happy to be outside of that, but I didn’t want to just seem like every other guy with a blog, either. (And again, I always thought a lot of my content was pretty unique, but I really took it to another level here).
Luckily, I had a foundation to start with. Entering 2019, I had two major projects on my mind — the first was my speculative fiction story “An Overindulgence of Madness.” This was a type of sports story I had never seen before — blending history with an idea of what the future might look like to make arguments about the present, all with some of my philosophical ideas sprinkled in.
This would lead to sequels in the Asher Raines series down the line, and contribute to me thinking outside the box for future ideas like my piece on the theoretical maximum number of home runs a player can hit in a season and my media-blending NBA 2K experiment with the Jamestown LeBrons (which I think is the most fun thing to read that I’ve written).
The second project was “Out of the Dawg House: The Story of the 2018 Cleveland Browns,” my first venture into longform storytelling which was released both as a written piece and as a nearly-hour long podcast that I called an audio documentary. This was a completely new style of content for me and really where my Jon Bois influence started to show.
Another important realization I made was that I needed to stop publishing things because I felt like I needed to and to instead only write things that I wanted to write.
Luckily, though, I was gaining tons of inspiration from classes I was taking and events that were happening in the worlds of sports, mind sports, and video games.
I also made the decision to switch from my WordPress website to Medium, and with that came the motivation to continue writing as a means to experiment with the platform and get everything it had to offer. This also led to me publishing some humor pieces, more personal essays (which I had written before but never published online), and pieces on creativity and the writing process.
2019 ended up being my most productive year, and I would go on to publish a collection of my work from the year as my first book, “Sports, Technology, and Madness” on Amazon the following January. That’s leaving some stuff out, but I go deeper into the book and my thoughts on it here.
2020 saw me expand more outside of just writing first through YouTube videos and then with the launch of my podcast, Slept On Sports, which finished its 20-episode first season in July 2021. I also, you know, spent the 2020–21 school year getting a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern and doing everything that goes along with that.
All of which basically brings us to the present. I’m currently an editorial researcher for the NFL, which allows me to combine my passions for sports, research, and writing.
But I still want to be creating content outside of that, and I do have a dream of being able to support myself with my own personal content (I’ll talk more in-depth about this at some point).
So, what’s the plan?
In short, it’s to do a bit of everything. So far, the vast majority of the things I’ve written have been sports-related and non-fiction. That’s extremely broad and encapsulates everything traditionally thought of as sportswriting, and that’s basically the point.
However, when I think about the possible things I could write or create, I imagine a 2x2 grid with one axis for sports and non-sports and the other axis for fiction and non-fiction.
So far, I’ve been mostly living in that bottom-left quadrant, but I really have a desire to create in all four areas and believe I can make things worth consuming in each.
While I never said so explicitly, the “Something Every Monday” series I started a few weeks ago and of which this piece is a part of (despite it going out on Tuesday — this took more time to write than I thought it would) was meant to allow me to explore the other three quadrants while working on my next non-fiction sports project.
I’ve already experimented with the other three quadrants both publicly and privately, but this is the first time I’ve really made an effort to regularly publish things in these areas.
Here are, without getting into the specifics, some thoughts I have on what I want to do in all four quadrants.
I’m still planning on doing bracketology and college basketball analysis, and I’ll probably still write the occasional column or thought piece here and there, but for the most part, I’m going to be doing storytelling with a statistical emphasis, which is basically where Slept On Sports resides.
I think written content, podcasts, and videos are all possibilities here, and decisions on the medium I use will probably depend on the project I’m working on.
Something important worth noting is that I want to create more cohesive projects. I’m someone that tends to get tired of repetition in the context of work, and one of the ways I want to deal with that (along with working on multiple different projects) is to have clearly defined goals for what I want projects to be.
For example, I’m not the type of person that can do 100 episodes of something like Slept On Sports, making another one week after week without an end in sight. When I reached episode, I don’t know, 13 or 14 (?) of Slept On, I decided that I was going to stop at episode 20. That helped me stay motivated and pick the best stories to fill the remaining episodes.
Slept On Sports is something that absolutely will continue, at the very least spiritually in other projects (but also possibly as Slept On Sports), but when these projects come out, they will likely be much more planned out. For example, I might have a podcast or video series with a defined number of episodes that I have planned out ahead of time, or a book created with a similar mindset.
And, for the record, I do think it’s likelier than not I will release another book within this quadrant within the next 2–3 years, although there are multiple options for what that might be.
I have a very big idea in this category, something that I’ve had for a while and is possibly the thing I’m most interested in making down the line, but it’s probably still several years away at the earliest.
In the meantime, I’m not going to get too carried away here. I’d like to challenge myself to write one or two Asher Raines stories a year as I’ve been doing since 2019 and occasionally do something else, like my Jamestown LeBrons story or any other random offshoot idea I have.
Many, many possibilities here. I’m going to continue trying to write the occasional short story and maybe even branch out from the philosophical musings that have been heavily featured in many already published short stories (or maybe not!).
I’ve always wanted to write a novel and have tried several times, so maybe something comes out of that at some point. I have a few ideas that I’ve toyed around with but I wouldn’t expect anything in the next few years.
At some point, I’d love to jump back into video game development. Only a few people actually know this, but I spent roughly six months in 2018 working as the lead writer on a visual novel project with a few friends. While that project was ultimately shelved, it was maybe the most creatively rewarding thing I’ve been a part of and just loads of fun all around. There are still plenty of characters, narrative ideas, and gameplay mechanics from those days that could end up being reused.
In all of this stuff, I’m quite interested in unconventional storytelling techniques and ways to surprise the reader/player and subvert their expectations.
And lastly, the quadrant which, out of the 3 quadrants I’m less known for, will probably have the most things going on.
I have lots of ideas that will probably end up as solo articles or YouTube video essays dealing with many topics but with an emphasis on creativity, the media landscape, social media, sociology, social psychology, and philosophy.
I’m interested in publishing essay collections and writing books down the line on specific topics or ideas that particularly interest me. Who knows, I might even share some poetry.
Suffice to say, there are tons of ideas running through my head right now (and probably lots more if I go through all my old notes).
All I can stay is that stuff is on the way, and stuff will likely always be on the way, as I can’t go long without writing before it starts to just feel weird.
I’m still in the early phases of this huge journey I’m on, and I’d love to have you along for the ride. I want to do lots of different things, including things I haven’t thought of yet. I want to be unpredictable, and I want that to excite people. I also just want to do things that I can be satisfied with.
This was a bit longer than an elevator speech, but this also felt incredibly necessary from my perspective, just to be able to collect all of these thoughts in one place, regardless if anyone reads it or not.
Now, it’s about time I get busy.