There's a time in every writer's life when they have to take a break from the art they love most (in case you don't know what I'm talking about, that "art" is literature/journalism/blogging).
They could be busy. They could be having a severe case of writer's block. Or they may be going through a period of time where they just have to find their place.
My problem? I was too busy.
I could barely find enough time to express my opinion on the team I love most—the Boston Celtics.
So I took a leave from Bleacher Report. And let me tell you, from a writer's perspective, it's one month I won't soon forget.
Because it was surprising to me how much I had learned about being a writer...without even composing a piece.
I was given quick pointers on how to improve. Without even writing a story. I expanded my vocabulary from reading a variety of articles. Without even writing a story.
And for those of you that have deliberately taken that "leave" before, you know what I'm talking about.
You want to write, but you can't.
You gaze at that POTD for a couple minutes, wishing it was yours but knowing that it can't be if you don't get back out there again.
So without further ado, I'll inform you of some of the tips I had learned throughout the time I wasn't active as a writer, as well as how it will help me develop as a journalist.
Writing a good comment is just as hard as writing a good article
With the addition of the "Great Comment" button below every comment, I've noticed how much people enjoy reading some of the knowledgeable and comprehensive (seriously, some of these comments are pretty tough to understand) feedback provided by the everyday commentators on Bleacher Report.
With that being said, writing a superb comment takes just as much brain power as writing a superb article.
Offering your thoughts and analysis on what somebody already stated (that is, if you agreed with the story) is a hard thing to do. You try to dig down to say something inspirational, but a lot of times it just isn't there.
Writing a good comment is just as rewarding as writing a good article
As you can see, the trend here is about comments and about reading others' articles. We'll get into that part later.
Once again, B/R's addition of "Great Comment" certainly enhanced this aspect of the commenting section. When you feel that writing articles is out of the question (whether it's time, confidence, etc.), constructing a good comment can be very rewarding. Sometimes, even on the same level as writing an article itself.
And like I mentioned above, it's a hard thing to do. But when you do manage to find that key sentence, that admirable paragraph, you feel it. You feel proud.
Positive or negative, writers like to receive feedback
Now, seeing that I'm already a writer, I should have picked up on this. And that's not saying I myself didn't love getting comments, but rather I myself not noticing other writers' joy when they pocketed a few thoughts from fellow sports nuts.
Despite all my urging for people to comment, my yearning for that one little bit of evaluation, I had never once thought what my comments meant to the composers of another article.
I had always thought my writing associates were disgusted when they saw the negative comments. Of course, there's those worthless, irrelevant comments that basically just insult the writer, and in that situation, the writer may feel upset.
But, I now know my companions and I are pleased when we get involved in a friendly discussion, and sometimes, a heated sports argument—if it goes beyond that, it's just another example of immaturity.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I never saw it through another writer's eyes. I thought the comments merely reflected on me.
Reading an article can conjure up a lot of opinions and observations...when you're not in the midst of actually writing your own
Trying your hardest to write a piece actually worth reading can be stressful—sometimes, even overpowering.
When I wasn't writing articles here on Bleacher Report for the last month, I had had the chance to sit back and analyze some articles written by some of my closest friends and peers on the Internet.
What I had realized is that it's a lot easier to examine articles and brew up some of your own ideas/opinions/thoughts when you are not worried about finishing an article of your own; or even starting a new article voicing your opinion on the specific story you just read.
And the shameful part is, most people that have a passion for writing will not realize that for a long time—sometimes, never.
You appreciate work much more as a reader/commenter
Why? Because, once again, your not stressed out about posting your own top-notch work.
For some people it's different. And I know that when I return as a full-time writer here, sharing my appreciation for articles will continue.
For some, they recognized the efforts put in to making this article from the star, and had shown and will remain showing it by writing a kind, friendly comment.
For others, they may not ever find a way to express their gratitude.
The art of posting on another's Bulletin Board
Before beginning my intentional sabbatical, I had often posted on one another's Bulletin Board.
Many Bleacher Creatures go through this process over and over again in an attempt to get them to read a certain article. While many people consider it annoying (although I do have to admit, when I came back from a wedding a recently attended, I was not pleased to sit down at the computer and see the 10 or 11 articles left for me to read), I look at it as a good way of getting your name out there, as well as a good way for people to read your articles.
Remember, (most) Bleacher Creatures don't go around stalking every league page looking for specific articles they think they may be interested in.
Another reason many people leave notes and tidbits on others' Bulletin Boards is to get in contact with, obtain emails and IM screen names so they can talk privately, or just to have a discussion concerning a topic outside of the comments section.
Posting on someone's Bulletin Board can be very efficient and effective. The majority of the time, the rare, but still existing annoyance of BB's can be worth it.
How to easily get a POTD, but why it's still hard
Getting a POTD has always been my goal here. Unfortunately, I haven't accomplished that goal.
In the month or so that I was gone, I had read the multiple POTD awards handed out—day, after day, after day. And what I realized is, the formula for achieving a POTD is so incredibly simple—yet it's still so frustrating to write.
1. Finding a hot topic to go with a clever title is a must if you want to win a POTD
The dissection of a hot topic is what people want to read and comment on. If the writing is good enough, they'll sometimes even click that "Pick of the Day" button.
Coming up with a clever title is also essential in winning a POTD. The title and the picture are the only things shown to represent the article on the front page of the site, as well as on your profile.
If you have a funny/dramatic/questioning/thought-provoking title, you're sure to get some reads.
2. Writing an article that will generate discussion is necessary
This in some ways goes with reason No. 1, but has to do more with the body of the post this time.
Suggesting rousing possibilities, verbalizing the "homer side" of your opinions, and verbalizing the mature/non-biased side of your opinions are sure-shot ways of getting both loudmouth comments and praiseworthy comments.
Finding a lively picture is key in getting a POTD. The picture must be appropriately related to the article (don't post a picture of Tiger Woods when the article is about hockey) as well, as irrelevance just ruins the article, whether it's something you said or a picture you added.
Your article must also be equipped with the applicable tags as well. After all, tags are the main reason your article is read.
Editing your article is seemingly one of the most vital things to do before posting it. You're clearly not going to gain any POTD votes, fan adds, or respect if your article is riddled with grammar, spelling, and factual errors.
Taking a month off from writing here is one thing I'll remember if I ever become successful in the media world.
If you ever feel a need to improve in other ways than just your writing style, reading this or actually taking a month off yourself is something I sincerely suggest.