There are less than two hours to go until the New Year begins. If you’re in Australia or China or anywhere else ahead of British Standard Time, it already has. So I thought that I would end the year with a reflective blog post on my 2015 – finishing my tennis-writing year where it began.
Tomorrow (now today!) marks a year since I launched this blog – ‘The Tennis Obsessed’. When I started out, I didn’t fully know where it was headed. But I hoped that it was headed somewhere.
This year seems to have passed very quickly for me – as every year seems to now. But when I look at where I was at the beginning of the year, and then at where I am now, it seems like a year really has gone by. At the beginning of the year, I was studying art, and writing articles occasionally on the side. Now, I am working full-time hours in a tennis journalism job, and studying journalism alongside for good measure. It has been a journey of a year.
I cannot remember when I first decided I wanted to be a tennis journalist – or even when the idea first occurred to me. I thought that it was around the time when I sent my first article to be published over at The Changeover, in May of 2014. But then I recalled that I had first planned on starting this blog at the beginning that year. Maybe that was when I first had the idea of combining my love for writing with my burning passion for tennis. Whenever it was, this is the year – surprisingly early on – when I can say that I have truly got somewhere with it. Not all the way, by any means. But this is the first year where I can look back at the 52 weeks gone by, and ask myself what I actually did all of this year, and account for the majority of it.
I thought I was writing a lot in 2014. Perhaps I was, but I was certainly not writing about tennis. For a long time I was able to recall every article I had written, and the number of them for the whole latter half of 2014 is a number I would have completed in two days now (although I was only feature writing to begin with.)
Every stage of my journey so far has been blessed and rewarding. I will never forget the thrill when my first ever article – this for The Changeover – was linked to by Sports Illustrated. I had actually been aiming for this back then – an avid follower of the tennis Sports Illustrated site at that time – and my possible naiveness was rewarded with a goal on strike one. It has not happened again since, but with every step I feel as though something has been achieved. And just being able to write about professional tennis, and to have an involvement in the sport I love, is a reward in itself.
So this year began with my blog. I wrote here roughly once a week for two or three months alongside my studies – something that I did not realise I had kept up – until I began to branch out and write for other sites and blogs as well. I did this until May – marking a year from when I had officially started working at becoming a tennis writer. In that time I had not been paid a penny for all the hours of work I had done. Although I obviously wanted to be paid for what I was doing, I persevered in the faith that one day, it would come to something.
And one day, it did. A final two weeks of writing simply for the love tennis (well, also as a job trial over the Wimbledon fortnight at CrunchSports.com – the last time I got a blog post up here) led to my job at livetennis.com, which I officially began in August.
Since then, I have been working pretty hard. I can no longer remember all the articles I have written (actually, I was sat for 15 minutes on Wednesday trying to remember something I had written that morning.) I started studying Journalism alongside in September, and from then the year has been jam packed. But through the ups and downs, I can look back and feel a sense of real accomplishment.
When you’re in the moment and surrounded by work, sometimes you can feel weighed down. I have no doubt that everyone has felt that way. Every so often, when I have been frustrated or overwhelmed, I have taken a step back and spent a few moments considering just how amazing it is that I have a job writing about professional tennis. In 2008, I was an avid fan of the Williams sisters at Wimbledon. In 2011, I became an avid fan of tennis in general. And by 2012, I was obsessed with the sport. I should not be so scornful of the Brits who do not know that tennis exists outside of Wimbledon, because I forget that once, that was me. That was how this brilliant journey began.
Recently, I have been nostalgically flicking through old feature articles I wrote in 2014 and during the earlier part of 2015. It has been interesting to do so, because I have immediately seen things that were amateurish and plainly not great that I have changed. But I have also seen things that were great, that I have left behind.
It’s tough to always write a brilliant article when you’re working to a timescale. Sometimes it’s tough even to write a good one. That is something I have struggled with over the past few months, with my perfectionist nature kicking in. It is why writing endless previews and shorter new stories has been such a great learning experience, as they have either forced me to write content faster, or left me less time to lavish on feature pieces. I have had to remind myself that many of my old feature articles were written over hours, when I had nothing else to worry about, and could invest all my analysis and effort and creativity into one piece of writing.
The whole experience this year has really changed my outlook on journalism as a whole, and given me more sympathy for it – and no, that’s not just because it’s my job now! I know that there are frankly poorly edited sites out there, but I used to look around at many websites and see badly written pieces or obvious mistakes within an article and think, “How on earth have they not spotted this?!”
My experiences have taught me that most journalists truly are pushed for time. Nobody is perfect. It is just that the errors of the writer are displayed for the world to see.
As I look back at what I have written this year, I can see some bad stuff – and stuff that I would certainly have written differently, had I had more time over it. But I can also see some good stuff – maybe even some great stuff, if I am allowed to say that. And I’m looking forward to learning from my mistakes (including time management), and taking the positives from the good things, in the aim to do even better in 2016.
Before I digress any further (and before the clock strikes midnight) (edit: I failed), I had better draw this to a close.
From my blog to livetennis.com, 2015 has been a great journey – one full of new experiences. I got media accreditation to the Aegon Open Nottingham in June (thanks to this very site), and had some of the best days of my life as a result. My dreams came true as I watched live tennis for the first time – at Nottingham initially, and then at the ATP World Tour Finals in November. And obviously, I got the job where I am now.
There were some tougher experiences as a result of this. I worked between 12 to 14 hours on most days during the US Open, struggled to fit everything into each day for many weeks, and got slammed and sworn down rather drastically on twitter by angry readers. I also cannot count the number of times I have been branded – in one way or another – a ‘fake journalist’ (do you need a certificate or a medal or something these days?) But it is all a learning experience, and one that I can find positives in every step of the way.
I hope that all of this doesn’t sound like some big celebration of myself – because that’s the farthest thing from what it is supposed to be. Tennis writing is a fantastic job, and one that can be rewarding and satisfying – and enjoyable. But at the end of the day, the journalist is simply the message sender. The journalist is the anonymous bridge between the tennis world and the waiting fans, in this case. It is not about the writer – it is about the sport. My opinions are not the stories that people are dying to read (although hopefully some of you find them interesting and one day they might be of some value.)
But as the massive tennis lover that I am, it’s great to know that my job is to relay the messages. That I am part of the anonymous bridge between the tennis world and the waiting fans (of which, let me assure you, I am still a member. You can be a tennis writer and a tennis fan, no problem. In fact, I don’t see how you cannot be.) My job allows me to write the articles. And I feel that it takes me deeper to the heart of tennis.
It is exciting to see how close to the heart I have travelled, and how much closer to the heart I can go. I’m sure that everyone who has a job that they love – in any field – can relate to that.
So thank you for everyone who has helped me out this year – given me your advice, tried to help me find direction, taught me on the job (Hannah Wilks, you are amazing.) Thank you so much to everyone who has been supportive of my writing and kept up with what I’ve written. It has been so encouraging! And thank you to my amazing family, who have all been so brilliantly supportive and put themselves out to help me – especially my Mum.
I do not know all of what is to come in 2016, but I have some ideas and a few exciting plans that may or may not come to fruition. I am hoping to be able to do more feature writing this year, and simply watch more tennis than I did in 2015, so I can restart the in-depth analysis I used to do. These will likely be over at livetennis.com, but I do want to keep this place semi-alive! It is somewhere I can look back to see how the journey has run.
Through the ups and downs that are sure to come, I simply hope that I can look back at the end of 2016, and account for what I did with the 365 days that filled the year.
Thus ends my reflection on 2015, my update on why this blog has been update-less for half a year, and my ramblings of thought. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Copyright of all pictures used belong to Abigail Johnson. They were taken on her phone, which is why the shape of some are so awkward.