Monday, June 28, 2010

Why "Average" Sucks

why average sucks

Copyblogger is the best blog on writing that I know of. Last week, Jonathan Morrow wrote "20 Warning Signs that Your Content Sucks." Way too many of them struck a cord for my comfort, and none more than the first:

If you had to rate your content on a scale of 1 to 10, what would you give it? A 6? A 7? That’s what most bloggers say. But here’s the problem: you can’t really grade content on a scale. You’re either blowing people’s minds or putting them to sleep, and there’s nothing in between. Put another way, content graded as a 6 or 7 gets the same reaction as a 1. It’s a waste of time to publish it.

It's a truism of writing that most writers are harder on their own writing than anybody else (also true for any creative profession). And in many cases, what some people see as a 9, we see as a 5. If you're seeing your writing as a 5-7 on a 10 scale, there are two possible reasons.

  1. Your writing is good, and you're being overcritical.
  2. You are producing mediocre work.
Bottom line: reason #1 doesn't matter.

Why? Because if you're producing 10's, people will let you know. People will gravitate towards greatness. Even if your greatness is something only a few people will appreciate, they'll find you. Eventually. In the meantime, being overly critical might be depressing, but it pushes us to get better.

The much more serious problem is actual mediocre work. Or even work that's just "above average." Why? Because of the internet.

The internet is, overall, a great tool for almost every artist. It allows us to market ourselves without having to rely on the superior resources of big publishing companies. But it also overpopulated the field, and stretches people time and attention further than ever. People who read online are looking to be entertained or informed. NOW. And if your don't present them with a great reason to come back to you, they'll move on. Because if you're not great, the somebody else is doing what you're doing, except better.

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