3 Reasons Why You Should Hit Publish On Your Next Post (Even If It Sucks)

  • December 20, 2011 by Guest Writer
  • 55 Comments

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.

When people don’t like you, nothing actually happens. The world does not end. – Julien

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.

Joel most recently published Impossible, a free manifesto on pushing your limits and telling a great story with your life by doing the impossible. Hopefully it doesn’t suck. Follow him on twitter and let him know.


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Jennifer Boykin December 20, 2011 at 6:51 am

Gorgeous work. Congratulations. I wrote a similar piece, “In Case You’re Chicken Sh*t.” You might like it! http://www.couragetochange.us/2011/10/04/just-in-case-youre-chicken-sht/

Thanks, again!

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

Awesome. I think the hardest part is to start. Once that comes, you have the momentum to keep going, but starting always the hard part.

Sean Davis December 20, 2011 at 6:57 am

I don’t have any article’s sitting in the que but I definitely agree with you here.

The reason I don’t have any unpublished articles is because my dumbass will delete them and step away from the computer.

As a new blogger, I always feel like my future success depends on the quality of my writing. Sure, that’s definitely an important factor but I always feel like I have to write epic shit every time I touch the keyboard. Man, it’s too much pressure and it’s not even necessary.

I hesitated to write my first guest posts too. I’ve written three so far. One of them is on Corbett’s new blog and that piece doesn’t even have any comments! http://expertenough.com/868/racquetball I don’t regret writing it at all, though.

You’re right. It’s okay if you’re writing isn’t perfect. It will get better with time as long as you continue to write. I’ve learned that recently and now, I am all about publishing content. I do try to make each post worthy of a good read but I’m not perfect, so…

Anyway, nice read. I agree 100%.

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

We want content to be perfect but it never actually gets perfect until you work at the skill of creating and publishing (i think publishing is also a skill).

As for your quality of writing, go back and read Chris Guillebeau’s early works or Ramit Sethi’s. Their early stuff is funny. It’s okay, but it’s not the amazing stuff they write now. Most bloggers get discouraged because they’re comparing themselves at year 0 with bloggers at year 5-7 and forget that everyone starts somewhere.

Gregory Ciotti December 20, 2011 at 7:17 am

I agree and disagree here…

I agree that it’s important to just “do” rather than letting self doubts stop you from publishing something.

Yet, at the same time, I don’t agree with the mentality of “create and then prune”, or rather, I feel like you should be creating all of the time, but that doesn’t mean you should be publishing all of the time.

A creation can be set aside and worked on another day, but you shouldn’t feel like it’s a waste if you don’t publish it immediately.

I’d rather sit and wait until it turns out how I feel it should be, rather than “publish & prune”.

Sean Davis December 20, 2011 at 7:31 am

How do you actually know when it becomes what it should be? Do you actually know?

I think that’s why he led with the idea that what HE thought was great got no love. And what he thought sucked got the best response.

So, if it’s unpredictable, why wait?

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:37 am

I think publishing is something you have to get good at. It’s easy to create stuff or get them half done. It’s hard to say, I put my stamp of approval on this and release it to the wolves (the public) to see what they think.

Lots of people create, but not everyone finishes them and publishes them. And the only way you’re going to get good at publishing (and the necessary thick skin that goes along with it) is by publishing a lot and learning along the way.

Sergio Felix December 20, 2011 at 7:33 am

Hey Joel,

Not only I have a LOT of unfinished posts sitting on the WP dashboard but I also have dozens of ideas written in .txt files all over three different computers and those are there for the same reasons you mentioned in the beginning.

- “What if they’re too dumb?”
- “Nobody is going to read this…”
- “There’s a million posts already on the same subject, why another one?”

And the list goes on and on.

However I agree with you that people remember just the awesome work, the mediocre or low quality work is something maybe blurred in the memory.

So thanks man, really liked your advice and you have got yourself a new reader on your Impossible Things blog, very cool looking btw!

Take care and speak soon!

Sergio

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:38 am

Thanks Sergio.

I have probably close to 100 of those unfinished thoughts/drafts sitting around somewhere on my computer. Working through them and finishing them up is my goal for the next few days!

Conni December 20, 2011 at 7:36 am

Haha thanks Joel! I have to laugh cause I’ve got a lot of half-finished / finished posts sitting in my Scrivener – and you’re right, I should just present them to the world… I just might!
Cheers for the kick in the ass, always appreciated!
Well done on your manifesto and your blog and everything you hit publish on!

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

Ha :) . Thanks Conni! Glad you enjoyed it.

Richard December 20, 2011 at 7:42 am

I agree with all your points. You have to practice to improve your writing. Sometimes, I feel like molassas trying to write a post and I put together something because I want to stay consistent. At the end of it, I’ll do a grammer check and publish the post because it was the best I could do that day. But as I continue working, it gets easier and I feel like I’m improving. Also, I find that sometimes a post will resonate and do well even thought I didn’t think it was my best work.

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

Getting something (anything) down on a blank page always helps me start. Once I get past the few 3 sentences or so, I can usually keep writing without a hitch. Maybe that will help you?

Monica Hemingway December 20, 2011 at 8:18 am

I don’t know, Joel. If it truly sucks (meaning that the idea is only half-baked, facts aren’t checked/correct, there’s no logical flow, etc.) then I wouldn’t want to put it out there with my name on it (I like to think that I wouldn’t write something that bad but hey, we all have bad days). But if I only THINK it sucks, then ok, you’ve got a good point. Fear of rejection and ridicule is a huge deterrent to hitting the ‘Publish’ button…

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

Well yes, don’t lie. And yes, spew vomit all over you blog. But, if you’ve got an idea half-done and the only thing holding you back is the fear that people might not like it, you should hit publish, because that’s the only way you’ll ever find out.

Sundi Jo December 20, 2011 at 8:24 am

Great info. You’re so right on!

Bojan December 20, 2011 at 8:25 am

I completely agree with everything said in this article. The moral of the story is “something is always better than nothing” and in the process of writing bad posts and good posts you’ll get better, you’ll begin to develop your voice, you’ll find out what your readers do and don’t like. And at the end of the day if no one reads your blog, you still got better at writing which was better than withering away in front of the tv!

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:54 am

Haha. It’s just one of MANY things that are better than withering away in front of the TV :)

Tushar Agarwal December 20, 2011 at 9:33 am

I love your post man. It is simply awesome.
I have always believed that there is no harm in trying and a blog is a place where you write what you feel and not what others feel. Try new things and let the things happen. And as you say, you never know what resonates

Joel December 20, 2011 at 10:28 am

Exactly. Keep trying and see what happens – you’l be surprised!

Sarah Arrow December 20, 2011 at 10:10 am

Joel, I agree with everything :)
You cannot improve your writing / blogging / business without being there and being active.
Recently there has been an onslaught of posts telling bloggers they don’t have to post once a day, they can post less. I tell my client they can post less but they’ll need me longer – they will not improve as fast as someone who writes and posts daily.

Joel December 21, 2011 at 8:36 am

Technically, you don’t *have* to post at all :) (nobody ever said blogging was a requirement!)

But, like you said, if you want to get better, you have to *do* – and that means more publishing.

Dave Doolin December 20, 2011 at 10:25 am

This applies more and more, the more and more one blogs. At the moment, I’m not writing a lot, so I’m a little more hesitant to publish. Back when I was blogging daily, yep, publish it! Just get it out!

Joel December 20, 2011 at 11:14 am

There’s definitely a momentum aspect to it – the more you publish, the more you’re comfortable with publishing. The less you publish, the more hesitant you are to publish. That’s been my experience anyways.

Mike Martel December 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Totally agree. Way too many times I see people spend way too much time getting a post perfect and end up never getting it out. They don’t have to get it perfect, just get it going. The practice of doing more and more posts will hone their skill.

Steve Wells @ How to Pick up a Girl December 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Being consistent maybe the hardest thing…Finding the motivation again and again to work on your articles without thinking ‘Why am I spending so much time on this, I could watch a movie and have a lot of fun’ instead…

Joel December 21, 2011 at 7:24 am

Consistency is the one key difference you’ll see between the bloggers who keep blogging and the bloggers who don’t. Be consistent!

Betsy Talbot December 20, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Joel, I have a bunch of embarrassing blog posts, too. But I wear them proudly because they helped me develop the voice that now attracts readers to our site. It is the same with video – when I see our first ones I just want to cringe. I mean, what the hell was up with my squeaky voice? But it took doing those to being comfortable in front of the camera now.

The only way to get to good is to go through a lot of bad and mediocre first. It is the same with everything, including love. (Imagine if you put that kind of pressure on yourself to find the perfect mate with only one date!)

Joel December 21, 2011 at 7:25 am

I keep all of my bad posts, because adds to the journey that I’ve been on and how I’ve developed. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, just another marker to show you how far you’ve come :) .

gautam hans December 20, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Joel, Best advice ever!
I used to worry whether my writing is upto the mark or whether my audience will find it useful.
there are questions like – is my writing suubstandard. This process went on for a few months and then, I stopped worrying. I make notes, place them together and just write.
I used to think my humor really sucked but one of my posts got popular because I included humor in that particular post.

Joel December 21, 2011 at 8:38 am

I find subtle humor works pretty well. Most people are so worried about being “professional” that honesty & humor are refreshing for a lot of people.

Robin de Jongh December 21, 2011 at 6:03 am

Great advice. What I always say to our authors is “don’t get it right, get it written!”

Joel December 21, 2011 at 8:37 am

Done > Perfect

Charlie December 21, 2011 at 6:51 am

I think sometimes we have to remember just to get the pen on the paper and get stuff out there.

Will be publishing the blog post that has sat in draft for a week today. Thanks for the inspiration.

Joel December 21, 2011 at 8:37 am

Glad to help Charlie :) .

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 December 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Hey Joel,

I heard a story the other day that reminded me of this . . .

A French woman upon seeing Picasso in a Parisian restaurant approached the great master and insisted that he put down his coffee and make a quick sketch her. When he was done, she took the drawing, put it in her handbag and pulled out her billfold.

” How much do I owe you?” she asked.
“$5,000″ was Picasso’s reply.
“5,000? But it only took you only three minutes!” she exclaimed.
“No” Picasso answered. “It took me all my life.”

Picasso realized he’d hit publish when his work wasn’t so special and that was the only reason he was any good today. Glad you reminded of this important lesson today Joel.

Donovan Nagel December 24, 2011 at 1:43 am

Excellent advice here, mate. Very impressed with a lot of your tips and finding your site very helpful (I’m still a blogging noob).

Astro Gremlin December 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I’m so delighted to have encouragement to publish dumb junk. You really don’t know whether people will like stuff until you put it out there. A writer once told me that deciding whether something is good or not is the reader’s business, not mine. It does make sense to try to suck less. That’s phase two! :)

Alex Aguilar December 25, 2011 at 2:15 am

Interesting points Joel. I unfortunately am one of those bloggers who agonizes over each post and have to read, reread, edit, re-edit etc. before hitting the publish button. I’d be a lot more prolific if I followed your advice, but my internal censor always stops me from just throwing it all out there.

Stanley Lee December 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Joel,

I like how you’ve stuck to simple phrases in this guest post. Happy holidays and enjoy the hustling.

Stanley

Janet December 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Great post Joel! I think reference to drugs is kind of a cool thing.. It might sound bad, but it’s total pop culture shit. It reminds me of that book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, which is a pretty excellent read.

My blogging process is just to write and publish. I don’t really have rough drafts and then finals and edit things, etc. I’m not sure if this is a good thing, or neutral. But I still love the blogging process! This is reminding me to write more, and to find my love for writing again. And that I really need a notebook to jot ideas, or maybe I should use my planner for that.

Tracy December 28, 2011 at 5:54 am

Great article! I’ve found that the posts I’m most hesitant to publish are the ones that get the most positive feedback. I was afraid that those posts were too simple, or clichéd, but readers could relate.
That said, I’m never afraid of losing a reader. I’m afraid that a potential reader will stumble on my blog when a sub-par post is up and never give the entire blog a chance. It’s like wanting to make a good impression on a first date, but you never know which post is the first date.

Christopher Ryan January 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Perfect. I find myself struggling with this all the time – trying to balance my professional image with the online voice of my carefree, outgoing personality. The more I read here, though, the more confident I become that I can actually have fun -and- build my blog. ; p

More Web Site Traffic Guide January 4, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Not hitting the publish the publish button because you think that a post needs more details or needs to be perfect makes a paralyzed blogger. There is no such thing as a perfect blog. Learning as you go is what this article is all about. Great points here!

Jamie Northrup February 7, 2012 at 4:49 am

I’ve delayed hitting publish so many times, and wish I hadn’t, hit that button, whatever needs changing can be done after, and if whatever you said isn’t complete or is wrong that opens up the possibility to another follow up post.

Mark Greenia January 29, 2013 at 10:56 am

Great post Joel! I recently started my own blog (www.mlg3.com), focusing on my passions and exploring/showcasing others passions, and I’ve been in a real crap spot with publishing content. I’ve been over concerned with fine tuning every little part of each thing I’m writing, and it’s really been a drag for my site. I only have 2 published posts, and so many more in draft form. I need to take your advice; fine tune as you go. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t Mr.Olympia in his first month of training, John Lasseter didn’t create Pixar the day he graduated college, and Metallica didn’t receive their first grammy nomination until their 4 album.

Do the best you can, with the knowledge you have, and continue building something bigger and better. Great advice.

Chiara Cokieng April 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Thanks Joel, I am almost done reading most of your archives and now I am stalking you all over the internet…

Thank you again for the reminder!

Caylie December 20, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Hi Joel,

Glad to hear even the experts have unfinished ideas and posts. As a newbie I have the same fears as Sergio. Of course the only way to conquer fear is by doing the thing you fear.

Maybe I could help you organise a “Blast Through Your Unfinished Posts” fortnight (it would take me at least that long with the pile I have). Would anyone else here be keen for that? Do you think ImpossibleHQ readers would get involved?

Keep pursuing the impossible!

Caylie

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