Hello and welcome to this Q and A with a fellow ChicagoNow blogger. I've been wanting to do something like this for a while with a variety of writers, but like so many good intentions, it fell through the cracks. Enter the ChicagoNow staff and this great opportunity. I hope to continue to do this with other writers, some of my favorites on ChicagoNow and others. In the future This will called "5 questions with a writer." But now, on to Evan and his awesome responses.
A Little Background
Evan Altman was born and raised in Northwest Indiana and was introduced to the Cubs via WGN, which has been a passion ever since. Evan began blogging for Yahoo's Contributor Network and when that enterprise folded, he was tapped to contribute to Cubs Insider on ChicagoNow. Not only does he write about the Cubs, but he also writes about his other interests, craft beer, pop culture and whatever strikes the moment. (Sounds like he could contribute to White Sox and Stuff with that range!) He currently resides in Indianapolis (lovely city) with his wife and two children.
1. Since you are a blogger I'm assuming you do other work, but do you identify yourself as a writer? Why or Why Not?
Yes, I do consider myself a writer and that was once my goal in life. I went to school to be an English major because I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up; I still don't. But the idea of using words to convey experiences and expressions is something I love to do. Even in a goofy or sarcastic piece, I like to paint pictures with my words, to use alliteration, inference, and even punctuation and tone to show how I'm feeling or what I want the reader to feel.
There's a common theme out there regarding using "sarcasm font" and I like that. It speaks to the inability of works to convey non-verbal cues. However, I like to think that I'm able to inflect some nuanced emotion into my posts. At least, that's what I try to do. So yeah, I definitely consider myself a writer and probably would prefer to associate more with that than with some boring corporate gig.
2. Thinking of the material that you've produced, is there anything you are particularly proud of? What makes it special? (If you got a link great!)
I'm most proud of the stuff that is personal to me. My most-viewed posts are not very personal but have probably just caught more eyes for their headlines or whatever. But the stuff I'm most proud of has involved either my kids or my love for the Cubs and/or baseball in general.
I actually used the text of a children's book I've written as a post and that got very few looks. Likewise, my cautionary tale about raising your kids to be Cubs fans was mostly left unread. Finally, one of my worst-performing Yahoo pieces was one about Ron Santo, and that was published on the anniversary of his passing. I take pride in what I do even if no one else reads it, but the attention whore in me does like to see the pageview numbers a little higher.
3. If you could write anything, a novel, screenplay, sports book, travel guide, whatever, what would it be? Share as much of the idea as you want.
Either a novel or a screenplay. I've dabbled in short stories and have started and stopped a couple novels. I'm not sure that my mind works far enough out in advance to tie together all the necessary character and plot elements for a full novel. But I feel that I could really write some killer dialogue, sort of like a poor man's Quentin Tarantino. I just don't know where to start and where I'd find the time to do all of it. For now, I think anything beyond a couple thousand words will remain a pipe dream for me. Someday though...
4. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
My greatest challenge, honestly, is finding ways to properly express myself without getting too fast or disjointed. My mind moves rapidly and my words and ideas have a tendency to overrun one another, to the extent that I may have different thoughts competing with one another. One idea may not be fully fleshed out, yet I'm forming another in the following paragraph. So at the end, I'm left with more than one thesis, neither of which was actually argued properly.
But the fun thing about blogging is that it's organic and I can take to either the comment section or a subsequent post, or even social media, to more fully engage the audience or round out and explain my thinking. I used to be very skeptical of Twitter, but I've grown to fully embrace it. It's a great tool for bloggers in particular and is as fun as it is useful.
5. What is the best advice you've ever received with regards to writing?
Just do it, and I've gotten that advice from several sources over the years. I know that's super cliche, but if you don't write, you don't get better. Most of my stuff germinates from just the tiniest seed of a thought; it could be a song lyric (I wrote about Dale Sveum's firing after thinking of the line "I'm causin' more family feuds than Richard Dawson" from "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothin' To F--- Wit http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-insider/2014/03/chicago-cubs-rebuild-been-a-long-hard-road-out-of-hell/), a story (http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-insider/2014/03/chicago-cubs-rebuild-been-a-long-hard-road-out-of-hell/), or just Kris Bryant's dreamy smile (http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-insider/2014/06/kris-bryant-is-super-dreamy-but-hes-also-a-long-term-investment/).
Sometimes, stuff will just hit me out of the blue and I'll shoot myself a text or an email or just jump on the computer and bang something out. Thoughts are fleeting and if you don't capture them when they're new and bright, you risk losing them for good. I've had great moments of clarity that I was sure would burn bright enough for me to see days later. Trouble is, even minutes after they appear, they can be gone. That sounds really melodramatic, but it's absolutely true. The best stuff ever written is probably actually not written at all, but rather has been lost to the ether of faded memory. Again, that's a bit florid, but you get the point.
A lot of times I'll even tweet out thoughts that hit me and use those later in posts. You need to take advantage of the moment when it's there because there's no guarantee that it'll be there for you should you choose to leave it and come back later. You also don't know whether your frame of mind will change between having the thought and committing it to the page. That's why I do my best to write as much as a I can as soon as I can. So that's a long answer. Best advice about writing: just write.