My new job is to write about things that occur to me. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to sustain it because I have limited control over whether ideas come to mind. I can try to create conditions that stimulate them, but the idea-generation process itself is mysterious.
So far I’ve been fortunate — ever since I left RotoWire in February, I’ve had a near non-stop supply of ideas, both about sports and other things. Sometimes, I’ll be lying in bed, an idea pops up and have to drag myself down the hall to the office to take notes. Other times, I’ll be in a conversation with Heather in the car and have to pause it to type a note into my phone. It would be easier if ideas arose while I were at my desk, but as I said, it’s not in my control.
Even though it’s not in my control, I do have a process of sorts. After I take a note on them, I write them up on Substack or Chrisliss.com. Usually, the idea sounded better in my mind than it reads on the page, and I can’t publish it. But it’s there as a draft and over the next few days I work on it. Sometimes I’ll talk about it on the podcast. Eventually, I’ll feel okay enough about it (non-sports post) to send to my editor, Heather, who is too busy and has little interest in the subject matter. I browbeat her to read it and eventually she does. She’s the perfect editor because she knows a little bit about what I’m saying — but not too much — and reacts like many of my prospective readers. She also gives good, unsparing feedback. I incorporate her notes, badger her to read it again, and either publish or incorporate more notes and repeat.
The process works like any other natural one. Grow the grapes, take off the stems, let them ferment in the tank and after a certain interval you have wine. Nature gives you an input, you process it and generate something in which someone hopefully has an interest. One’s mind is itself a phenomenon of the natural world.
Why am I posting this on Real Man Sports? Because the idea I had today was to use a similar process for making my Circa Sports Million contest picks. The idea was to look over each week’s slate on Monday or whenever it comes out, note my initial leans and let it sit. On Tuesday, I’ll come back and do the same. I’ll set an intention to get clear. As clear as I can get about which teams are values and which games are too close to call.
The first two years I wrote Beating The Book for RotoWire, I had a similar process with my brother. We’d get on the phone early in the week, go back and forth on our leans, take a couple days to let it sit and go over it again from scratch. I often found that certain games on which I initially had no lean suddenly became clear. Maybe it was small-sample-driven luck, but we broke 58 percent picking every single game over two seasons.
My brother no longer follows football closely enough to be the guy, but maybe it wasn’t so much having another person as letting the fermentation process run its due course, without interference, without the column’s Wednesday deadline interrupting it, so the yeasts (so to speak) can complete their work. In fact, many times over the last few years I submitted my column and only on Friday or Saturday got clear on a few games after it was too late.
So that’s the plan, to use a version of the process with which I once had success, adapt it to something I’ve discovered writing non-sports posts and trust it as completely as I’m able. There is no algorithm (though I toyed briefly with creating a spread sheet-driven one), I won’t look at other people’s numbers and I’ll avoid sports-betting Twitter to the greatest extent practicable. I don’t want to know what the “sharps” are thinking or what percentage of the public is on one side or another. My mind is the algorithm, so to speak, but it’s powered not by sophisticated number-crunching but by its own intention to see clearly.
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