I’m listening to an interview with Bill James, conducted by Bill Simmons. James talks quite a bit about his early years, when he self-published his Abstracts for a limited audience (he sold 75 copies of his first book). He describes what he was doing as “blogging” … he didn’t belong to any institutions, so he was free to write about what interested him (in his case, baseball). I’m not sure he knew when he sold those 75 copies that one day he’d be, well, Bill James. But I can remember him saying more than once that he has always assumed if he was interested in something, there were probably other people who were interested in the same thing. They would be, in effect, his audience, even if they didn’t exist yet (well, they existed as humans, but they didn’t yet exist as his audience).
I am not Bill James. I’ve been writing this blog for ten years, and even now, I don’t suppose I have 75 readers … a dozen regulars if I’m being kind to myself. Ten years after Bill James sold 75 copies of his first book, he had been with a major publishing company for most of the 80s, and had established himself as the biggest name in baseball analysis.
But I really connected with his comparison of his early work to blogging. That’s a standard, overused comparison … it seems like everyone from the pre-Internet era is labeled, at some point, a “blogger before there was blogging”. What connected with me, though, is the way he wrote about whatever interested him. I often think of blogging as the ultimate in navel gazing, all of us blathering away as if we were the center of the world. I’ve never had an answer for anyone who asked me why I bother, especially after a decade. I still don’t have an answer, but I have a connection. I don’t blog because I want to become Bill James, but I blog in a way similar to how Bill James wrote (and writes … he still seeks out things that interest him).