This is a guest post by Joel Runyon of Impossible HQ.
If you’re a writer, you probably have 2-3 different posts in some sort of incubation form. Either it’s an idea jotted down in a notebook, a half-thought out post in Google Docs or a final draft sitting in your WordPress back-end. If you’ve got them half-way written out, you need to finish them and get them done. You need to hit publish.
If you haven’t yet, it’s because you’re scared of your readers. Every time you go to hit publish, a ton of questions bubble up:
- What if they don’t like it? Publish it anyways.
- What if they get mad? Publish it anyways.
- What if they think I’m stupid? Publish it anyways.
Hit publish anyways. Here’s why you should (even if you think it sucks):
People Remember Your Best Work – Not Your Worst
There’s a massive fear most bloggers have that if you write something bad any modest readership you might have will disappear, abandoning you forever and reporting your account for spam every time you show up in their twitter feed.
As a certified expert in writing some really bad posts, that doesn’t happen (at least as much as you think it will). And I write a lot of bad posts. Don’t believe me? Take a few minutes to search through my archives and read my very first posts – they’re all there, awaiting your laughter and mockery.
But you know what? It’s okay. Nobody holds any of the terrible posts I’ve written over my head because most of them aren’t actually terrible, they’re just not very good. I am not advocating mediocrity, but unless you consistently put out crap without a care and learn nothing from it, you’re much better off getting in the habit of creating and publishing rather than trying to create stellar posts without ever publishing anything.
The secret is that when readers read a bad post, it’s very seldom SO bad that they completely delete your entire existence from anything they follow. Most likely, they’ll simply archive your email or mark your post “as read” in their RSS and move on with their life.
The flip side of this, is if you never create any of your best work, you’ll be easily forgotten. So even if your end result isn’t epic, you can put an epic amount of effort into it and eventually, the results will come. Corbett recently did a 30 day experiment of publishing something everyday. Not every post was a 10/10 and I know I can’t tell you the worst post out of all 30 that he wrote, but I can point you to the one post that hit a nerve. People remember your best work, not your worst. Corbett likes to tell people to write epic shit. I totally agree, but in order to get there, you first need to create epic amounts of shit. So stop worrying and start writing. You’ll get there…if you publish.
You Have No Idea What Will Resonate
A few weeks back, I released my first manifesto: IMPOSSIBLE. In it, there was a section called Vicarious Living and Inspirational Cocaine. During the editing sessions, I wanted to cut it out because I wasn’t sure if it was a good fit. My amazing editor – Elisa “Bali” Doucette – convinced me to leave it in. So I did and a few thousand people downloaded it. I waited for the onslaught of angry reader emails telling me how much they hated that section. Sure enough, I got a ton of emails about it, but the response was the opposite – it was their favorite section! Really? I wanted to cut it out. Ha!
Maybe my audience just has an unstated affinity for illicit drugs, but if you write long enough, you’ll find that you’re often surprised at what actually resonates with people. I’ve spent hours, slaving over posts that nobody paid attention to and I’ve spent just a few minutes writing things that I thought sucked, but resulted in a slew of emails, comments and tweets from readers saying it was exactly what they needed to hear.
You can follow some formulas to create viral posts, but you can only do that so often before they seem cliche. Sooner or later, you’ll have to admit to yourself, you have no idea what resonates sometimes or for what reason. So publish, because you don’t always know what will resonate.
You Get Better
Be prolific, then prune your ideas. Create create create. Publish publish publish. If you publish enough, you, get better, simply because of the time commitment you’ve made to doing it. Then, begin to pare it down to your very best.
Perfection is overrated. Starting out, everything will suck. Your outlines, your drafts, your guest posts, your pitches, everything. Your goal isn’t to be perfect, your goal is to suck less. And that only happens by doing more of the stuff you want to suck less at. So if you want to become an expert at publishing, you need to do more publishing.
It’s not by accident that the people that create the best ideas also tend to create the most ideas (they also tend to create some of the worst ideas as well, but they don’t let that bother them too much). The end result is a bunch of pretty good ideas, but what you don’t see happening behind the scenes is that these people are prolific. They have more ideas in general because they create, create, and create some more – regardless of it’s merit.
At the time of this post, I’ve written about 200 posts on my blog. I’m just starting to get to be mediocre. I’ll readily admit I’m not the greatest writer in the world, but over time people pay attention because I’m consistent, I’m improving and occasionally (every now and then), I end up publishing something that makes people really sit back and question things. But none of that happens unless I publish, including the bad posts. So hit publish.
You’ll never quite know your audiences reaction to something until you hit publish, and most people don’t remember your worst work. If you’re still worried, stop. This is your reminder that it’s okay if you’re not perfect.
Find all your unfinished posts. Finish them up. Then hit publish. A lot. Even if you think your post sucks. See what happens. You might be surprised.