Why We Write, Part 4

I get asked the question “why cricket?” a lot. And as I mentioned over on Twitter last night, the answer, while meandering, invariably includes something along the lines of: because it inspires such great writing.

The Tweet last night was after I had read this story from Jon Hotten, aka The Old Batsman. It is everything I am talking about when I talk about cricket and writing.

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I often think about the “chicken or the egg” situation when it comes to cricket and writing, or at least a variation of it. Does cricket inspire great writing? Or does does it attract great writers? I have always thought it was probably the former, but now I am starting to think it might be the latter, and that I have been wrong this whole time. The fact that in the story linked to above there is a team known as The Authors XI is further confirmation.

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In today’s blog post, Mr. Hotten refers to the sadness inherent in cricket:

Somewhere within it, cricket has a deep, maybe unending, payload of sadness. It’s there in its history, in its psychology and perhaps more than that, it’s part of what the game acually is.

By sadness, I don’t mean melancholy or unhappiness: they are something different. It’s not about tragedy, although the game has had its share of those. Rather, it’s an emotion that cricket in some way seems designed to evoke.

And maybe that’s what it is. Maybe cricket, for good or for bad, attracts those of us that enjoy a bout of sadness, find it cleansing. And those kind of people also, invariably, tend to be writers. Maybe the game itself does not inspire the writing, but attracts those that can write. It would explain the active and brilliant blogosphere, and it would explain how libraries have been filled and emptied and filled again with words written about a game for children played by grown men.

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“Sad is happy for deep people” is a quote from a Doctor Who episode. And while that might be a tad too groan inducing to stomach, there is something in the statement that makes me think of cricket.

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I talked in an older post about why I write about cricket, and how I came to it as a fan first and a writer second. And that’s why I think I was able to stick with this for so long, because I actually enjoyed the game. But I also talk a lot about why I started this blog: because I wanted to write. Every day. And with that as my impetus, I could have chosen any topic: art, books, bicycles, Arsenal, dogs, a daily journal, music, politics, anything. But I didn’t. I chose cricket. Not because I was a fan of the game, I think, now, but because the game attracts those few among us that want to write.

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Now, I understand that this is a lot of hyperbole. That every topic on earth attracts people who want to write about it. But I think cricket is different. I think people come to cricket writing via a different path than those that end up writing about cars. I see a passion in the bloggers and a love for the written word that I don’t see in the non-cricket blogs I read.

And while no one will disagree that there are a lot of great cricket writers, and that the great writing is a great perk to being a fan of the game, there is another chicken or egg situation here: is it the game that attracts the writers, or is it the writing that came beforehand? A snowball effect, in other words. Does the game inspire the writing? Or the previous writing about the game?

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I am just riffing here. But it is something I think about a lot. Especially when I read the two posts linked to above. And I understand that there is no right answer to any of this, that everyone comes to the game differently. But when you look at the wonderful and supportive cricket blogging community that exists, it confirms that there is something different about us. Whether we think sad is happy for deep people, or that we were born to write, or that we love the written word, or that we simply enjoy taking in this amazing and spacious and anachronistic bat and ball sport…or maybe all of the above or maybe none of the above…something sets us apart.

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And for the record: When I talk about great cricket writers, I talk about all of us, and I talk about all of the formats. There is great writing about the IPL, and there is great writing about the Ashes.

County Cricket does not have a monopoly on great cricket writing, despite what some might think.

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And so I ask, dear reader: why do you write?

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One Response to Why We Write, Part 4

  1. Chrisps says:

    Chicken or egg? Egg – it’s the only place the genetic mutation can happen that could be the identified start of something. Not sure that helps, though.

    Reading your blogging on blogging is always a pleasurable indulgence. Thank you.

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