FanDuel - WFBC

April 03, 2011

Bill James: Develop Writers Like Ballplayers: "Our society is very, very good at developing certain types of skills and certain types of genius. We are fantastically good at identifying and developing athletic skills -- better than we are, really, at almost anything else," baseball statistical guru Bill James writes in his new book Solid Fool's Gold. "We are quite good at developing and rewarding inventiveness. We are pretty good at developing the skills necessary to run a small business -- a fast food restaurant, for example. ... We are not so good at developing great writers."

posted by rcade to general at 09:36 AM - 9 comments

Very glad there is a probing mind like his at work in the world. If he eventually decided to focus exclusively on subjects other than baseball, I'd be fine with that.

Such as the topic mentioned in the Amazon blurb on his book: "battling expertise with the power of ignorance".

posted by beaverboard at 01:53 PM on April 03

You know who is historically great at developing writers? Russia. Given the conditions there for centuries, I'm not so sure we should pursue Bill's suggestion.

posted by rocketman at 08:22 PM on April 03

Simply put, relying solely on the market isn't a reliable or useful way of producing either great artists or sportspeople.

/Stirring the possum.

posted by owlhouse at 11:11 PM on April 03

I is grate riter. Were my bok deel?

Go read a bit of Twilight, then weep for the future.

posted by Drood at 02:10 AM on April 04

Greatness in sports is measurable. Greatness in literature is entirely subjective. There probably is a great writer coming out of Topeka every 10-15 years. But there's no guarantee that literary acclaim or commercial success will automatically greet that writer's work.

posted by rcade at 09:51 AM on April 04

In the absence of a systemic developmental environment, the pool of people that become noted writers in their lifetime on the basis of literary merit is likely restricted to those who have the requisite passion and determination along with the talent.

On the other hand, there are lots of physically gifted athletes who have had ample resources lavished on their development who seem indifferent to their promise or reluctant to seize their opportunity to its fullest.

Ralph Sampson would be one example.

posted by beaverboard at 10:27 AM on April 04

There probably is a great writer coming out of Topeka every 10-15 years. But there's no guarantee that literary acclaim or commercial success will automatically greet that writer's work.

This, plus a 100 other reasons.

Writing is solitaire, quiet, with no guarantee of riches or recognition; much more complicated than james is presenting here.

posted by justgary at 07:56 PM on April 04

It would certainly be a shame if young writers got personal coaches to teach them their craft in grade school as Carson Palmer did.

Maybe that writer's career will be as disappointing as Carson's.

In Shakespeare's time, men of letters were very famous. It was not a "solitaire, quiet, with no guarantee of riches or recognition" profession. But there weren't movie stars, or rock stars either. One might as well pine for the death of theater.

The printing press did to the story teller what the recording industry did to the musician. The Beatles were not just a talent, they were a time and a place. If they started today, the record company would have found a new act to promote after their second album. If they had come along 20 years earlier, the recording tech wouldn't have been there to immortalize them.

Shakespeare was the first man to get credit for telling centuries old stories. He appears to be this great talent because he is the first recorded culmination of 5,000 years of story telling. Imagine if they invented recorded music tomorrow... How many hit songs could you cobble together? Elvis and the Beatles covered "Black" tunes that were already hits.

The Beatles and Shakespeare were the "best" of their special era or at least captured their zeitgeist... Don't get me wrong... But it's not as simple as the author purports. The assumption here is that talent alone accounts for the fame of Shakespeare. That could not be more erroneous.

posted by LostInDaJungle at 03:10 PM on April 05

Writing is solitaire, quiet, with no guarantee of riches or recognition; much more complicated than james is presenting here.

Yes, and it's a profession and like other arts has a craft to it. Genius may not be taught, but you can teach people to improve their writing.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 05:52 PM on April 05

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.