I’ve written before about my habit of digging up the “origin stories” of writers I admire. This weekend, while procrastinating on a story rewrite that’s due on Monday, I fell down the internet rabbit hole (it started with a Twitter reference to a writer-on-writer feud, detoured through a bizarre story about a person in a pink gorilla suit crashing a Grantland recruitment meeting, and finally led me to a writer’s blog on writing) and came across a new one, by Esquire’s Chris Jones.
Jones first came on my radar with his incredible profile of Roger Ebert a couple years back. Here’s the story of how he got into journalism. It begins with a big-name former journalist – the Headmaster of his graduate school residence – taking note of his writing and setting him up with a job interview, and ends with Jones landing a gig as a sports writer at the then-brand new National Post.
(Incidentally, Jones started that job at almost the exact same time that I, a self-righteous 16 year-old, scrapped plans to go to journalism school because I didn’t want to work for Conrad Black, who then owned the Post and almost every other paper of note in Canada. By the time I finally circled back around to journalism in my mid-20s, Black was a convicted felon, newspapers were generally considered to be a dying breed, and Jones was a regular at Esquire.)
Here are a few takeaways, of sorts, that Jones offers at the end of his story:
How can you make it, too?
- Write a lot, but for nobody but yourself
- Meet an influential authority figure who inexplicably decides to champion you to other people of influence
- Interview a founding member of blink 182
- In the meantime, finish your thesis on hockey arena design
- Graduate just when hundreds of jobs in your chosen field (totally unrelated to your education) are about to open up
- Have a terrible job interview and produce no physical evidence in your favor but somehow get hired anyway
- Make sure your first story has lots of grammatical errors in it
- Become so unwanted that you don’t count as a living person on any kind of employment form
- Write about a kid who nearly dies because of a freak sports accident
- Don’t bitch when you’re so broke that you’re living with two other dudes in a crappy apartment that smells like Parmesan cheese, but happily has a bakery downstairs that serves mushroom gravy in a bowl of mashed potatoes in exchange for very little money
Like I told you at the start: I really have no idea.
You can find a whole heap of Chris Jones stories over at Byliner.
Also, worth noting: My post on Jon Krakauer’s origin story — Jon Krakauer: “I Wanted To Pay The Fucking Bills” — is this site’s all-time most popular page. SEO lesson? Name-dropping + cussing. It works.