I wish I could tell you I knew where I wanted to go with my writing.
I actually have no idea, although that has nothing to do with a lack of desire.
In fact, it’s probably the opposite — since I was a child, writing and thinking about writing has made up nearly all of my waking hours in some form or another, something that continues today in my work as an English teacher, and in the free time I have outside of the classroom. Rare are the moments when I am not tweeting, micro-blogging, working at my spoken word, toying with short fiction, grading writing, planning writing, tweeting, micro-blogging, working at my spoken word, toying with short fiction, grading writing, planning writing…
Sports, and sportswriting, despite being a passion of mine for as long as I can clearly recall, too often find themselves relegated to whatever mental space is left after all that, the unfortunate victim of a cycle that has, over time, made me a dabbler in much, yet focused in none.
My constant, desperate attempts to juggle every single one of the above comes from a deep confusion about what kind of writer I should be just as much as it does my refusal to be boxed into any one area, and doing so has exacted a cost – stretching me too thin to really develop any particular area with the attention it deserves.
The Dat Winning fellowship is an invaluable chance to simplify, simplify, simplify all of this for me. Instead of worrying about what kind of writer I really am and battling the anxiety of writing everything, it would push me to do what I’ve never done, by asking that I simply write one thing, and write it with all the energy and skill I can muster: sports, its intoxicating, unscriptable drama, and the tales of the very, very human characters tasked with acting it all out.
No bouncing around. No using form or genre as an excuse to escape commitment.
Indeed, the unscriptable drama, that feeling of unbridled possibility is what colors my fondest, most vibrant sports memories: Super Bowl XLII, Oklahoma – Boise State, the Vince Young game (you know which), the short-lived “We Believe” Warriors; and while I did not grow up rooting for all of the teams listed, these moments helped cement in my formative years my favorite thing about sports itself — the sense that anything could happen, and that on any night, a new story was waiting to be explored, with a rotating cast ready for new roles.
This feeling was probably my favorite thing about sports even before I knew anything about sports at all. I had no idea what an ERA or an overload blitz was when I was 9, but my age and naivete didn’t prevent me from sensing how the world seemed fundamentally shaken by Allen Iverson’s step-over against the Lakers, didn’t stop me from cheering the underdog Diamondbacks over the dastardly Yankees, wasn’t a factor in appreciating the anti-hero that was Barry Bonds.
That is where my main interest in the fellowship comes from – if accepted, being a member of this program would challenge me not only to capture all the incredible drama of sports and the athlete-cast I have always loved following, but to also unearth the truths that are kept at the heart of that drama, on a platform that lets my own recounting be heard. After all, the drama itself is one thing, but dedicating myself to telling that alone is just summarizing. It is what lies underneath the action, hiding in the blur of plays and players that makes sportswriting so powerful and worth pursuing. At its very best, sportswriting is a lens into something bigger about us all.
The program also has my interest for a different reason, as well – being an Asian American, and particularly being an Asian American male can often act as its own box, because a person carrying those descriptors is rarely expected to write, or like sports, let alone meld the two. Working in this fellowship would allow me additional guidance from the kinds of writers I hope to eventually become, writers who have managed and then thrown off the handcuffs of stereotype, with voices that express a distinctly Asian American perspective, but are not defined by the ethnicity of the person penning them, signalling to my students that they can accomplish the same as well.
The truth is, even if I don’t know where my ultimate destination is as a writer at 25, whether fiction, non-fiction, journalism, or anywhere in between, I am certainly sure of two things, at least.
One, when I actually arrive, I will still be driven by this deep need to unpack the drama in front of me, because I will still love sports then, too, still fascinated by its twists and turns, the why is this happening and what does it mean. Maybe that happens in a formal column format, maybe in notebook form, but I don’t ever see a version of myself writing where sports isn’t in it somewhere.
And two? I’ll need to be damn good when I get there.