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Rembrance/Veteran’s Day, Writing Like Chris Jones



Before we get to my thoughts on writing, I just want take a moment for Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day:

A sincere thank you to those brave men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. 

This video here comes with a MHK rating – Must Have Kleenex.

….and those were the lucky ones.  Heart-wrenching.


Also, today is my brother Jeff’s 31st birthday, so a major Happy Birthday to him!

You can drop him a note on his Facebook page, his personal website, or Twitter

Love ya bro.

31. Damn, dude.


Throughout the course of my day as a blogger, I do a lot of reading.

I have to, given that my career demands I be up on all things hockey, so I use that as an excuse to read the type of click-hungry blurbs that Deadspin chucks up, because frankly, they’re usually more-than-worthy of my clicks in sheer entertainment value.

In the process of “acquiring hockey knowledge,” and digging through Deadspin, I’ve stumbled onto a few non-hockey sites that are must reads.

Foremost of these is the ever-moving, thoughtful, descriptive blog written by Esquire writer Chris Jones.  It’s called My Second Empire (I’ve pushed it before, you may recall), and he literally just writes about gutting and fixing up (or more accurately so far, tearing down) an old place for his family, doing as much of it as possible using only two hands, two legs, and sweat.  And probably some torso and back and knees too.

I hate Chris Jones, because he writes like your favourite song sounds.

I swear, it’s like music, whatever it is he’s writing about.  If I found out one day that literally every column he wrote was in some form of poetic pattern that I’d never heard of, the way that Shakespeare knocked out all that iambic pentameter stuff, I wouldn’t be remotely surprised.  It just can’t sound that good without there being some musical bars or beat of some kind behind it.

Whatever it is, I haven’t been able to track it down. 

The most valuable thing I think I’ve picked up is that it’s okay to be serious when the time is right.  He seems to breathe in life on a daily basis, like he somehow never loses perspective.  He’s a big picture guy, it seems.

I don’t often get to write the type of thoughtful pieces that probe the human soul the way Chris does, and I’m jealous of that too.

When I have written about people – like my piece on Travis Rycroft - I think it comes off perfectly fine, but hockey?  It’s tough to make a dump-in sound like poetry, but you gotta think – he’s being pretty eloquent about remodelling so I’ve got zero excuse.

Jones’ work, to me, is beyond education.  Journalism school may make your writing more technically sound, but there’s no way it can teach the feel behind the words.  I hope in time, I can get there too.

I owe a number of people the type of pages-long singing scripts that I’ve yet to attempt – my mother, my uncle Ken, my fiancée, my Dad, Tim Hodgson, my brother, my college roomates and a million others – but I’m not ready to take that swing and miss doing those people proper justice just yet.

I’m tinkering, I’m learning, and as they say, if you wanna be the best, you should learn from the best, so I’ll keep reading.

Here’s Chris’ latest entry on My Second Empire.  Here’s my favourite bit of his so far, incidentally, on writing.  Poke around his archives and tell me you don’t love it. 

You can’t.

My Second Empire


Hope your Thursday is going swell, friend. 

And please, this entry wasn’t meant in any way to be “fishing”, so please refrain from giving me any back pats, as much as they’re appreciated (especially when they’re on sites like Puck Daddy where my boss can see them!).  Any advice, however, will be happily taken here.



10 Responses to “Rembrance/Veteran’s Day, Writing Like Chris Jones”
  1. ms.conduct says:

    Word. I call myself a writer but that guy is a fuckin’ WRITER. He writes with depth and courage where I float on the surface. Deep dives are scary. My whole 20s was one big deep dive and I got out of there as fast I could figure out how (Thanks ProzacXanaxHockey!)

    I dunno. Some dudes just have it. I don’t think I’ll ever have it like that, but it sure is inspiring to want to give it a shot occasionally.

    You know what I think helps? Having a muse. Chris has that house for a muse. I know I’m feeling uninspired without mine.

    Oh and Happy Birthday, Jeff! Still a young tot. ;)

  2. Bradford says:

    The best advice I ever received on writing was constantly to read good writing, especially good fiction. Once you learn some of the smaller details that make writing good, (e.g., rhythm, properly ordering vowel sounds, patterns, repetition, alliteration, etc.) then you pick up on them when other writers use them. Reading fiction is important because it teaches you to pick up on subtleties like metaphors, word choice, etc.

  3. TN Hockey says:

    Continue to write what you know. Continue to write what you believe.
    Too many sports writers put out an occasional column just to stir people up. Maybe their editor is on their ass or they are out of good ideas but in my mind they are selling out their integrety. Those folks go on my ‘Dont Bother’ list. Life’s too short to waste time on people like that.
    I also like your backstory stuff and (especially) your insider perspective stuff. The Rah-Rah Islanders gets a bit tiring, but I understand……..(just kidding. we’re all fans down deep)

  4. jtbourne says:

    Love the comments so far (minus the rah-rah Islanders thing! I rarely write about them unless it’s to reference a player, because they’re the team I watch most). Good point about having a muse Ms. C. And yeah, dude is a fucking WRITER. I wanna make enough money that I can have less columns to write (as Simmons does), so I can really work on a piece or three a week. I’d love to get serious on some topic.

    I hate when I write a column that’s due at 9:30 a.m, I’ve been working on it since the day before, then I suddenly realize it sucks at 9 a.m. Honestly, it’s why writers end up writing crap so often. However it comes out is however it comes out for those of us with so many submissions to make. Today’s column, for example, was SHIT, but I had to submit it. Tomorrow’s is already better.

  5. Jeff says:

    I wanna see you write a column about who your All-Star team would be top to bottom. Then compare it to the legandary lineup BizNasty just put together on Twitter. Funniest shit I have read in a while.

  6. HockeyPhool says:

    Justin – I know you weren’t fishing for compliments; noted. Nonetheless, you’re doing just fine. I certainly hope you *do* grow as a writer. Given where you’re starting that will be something to witness.

    Don’t sell yourself short.

  7. I don’t like calling myself a writer but it’s certainly what I prefer to tell people when they ask what I do. It’s the closest thing to an avocation I have.

    I’ve always believed that the most important thing about writing is to know your audience. Thank my high school English teacher Mrs. Paneitz for that I suppose. Here’s the thing about that though, writing a hockey blog quite probably is a limiting factor for growth. Obviously there are people with a natural talent for words. Those people will develop regardless of the audience focus. But, for the rest of us … I believe the path for growth is to take the road less traveled.

    I love hockey and love writing about it in the way that I do. But honestly, there is only so much passion that I can regularly bring to bear without reaching some repetitive passion brick wall. How many times and different ways can one express their feelings (especially in my case) about a gut-wrenching loss or season long losing streak?

    I try to work on some mini-projects as I get time that nobody sees. I hope those help me over time develop in some way. I’m not young and have only had a regular audience for my words for less than 5 years. I remind myself of that and mention it here because one is never too old to stop developing as a writer. It truly is an art and anyone with a modicum of feeling for it, should probably stretch themselves at every opportunity. Sometimes, that means taking a chance and going for it versus holding back and waiting until you believe you can do a subject justice with your words.

  8. HockeyPhool says:

    Justin – thanks for turning me on to Chris Jones. Already queued up several columns in my reader for later. Read the first page of “The Things That Carried Him” and had to put it off for later when I’m not at work. Very emotional and well-written indeed.

  9. Deirdre says:

    I really didn’t need another thing to read, but wow – you are correct about the quality of Chris Jones. (@HockeyPhool – I left The Things That Carried Him for another day too!)

  10. Amanda says:

    beautiful post for the video of the soldiers coming home!! definitely need kleenex

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