Positive Writer

This blog is about overcoming doubt and creating work that matters!

Why So Many Blogs and Books Utterly and Completely Fail!

Yesterday I watched one of the weirdest, most unprofessional, and perhaps the dumbest Youtube videos ever. Then I looked at the number of views and it has to date over 28 million views. Okay, I’ve changed my mind, it’s brilliant.

Most of the highest grossing movies of the year will be panned by critics, much less considered for an award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and yet, they will earn more money than you and I could earn in ten lifetimes. And they’ll likely earn far more than the actual winners of academy awards.

Who is fooling who? It’s a travesty! Isn’t it? Maybe not.

writers-block

There’s a blog I love, it is one of the most read on the net about positive thinking, and yet, it’s riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes. Although the author writes in English, it’s clearly her second language, but you know what? It just doesn’t matter, not to me and certainly not to her 60,000 readers.

(I should link to her blog, but she might take it the wrong way, so I’ll keep it anonymous for this post.)

The reason many blogs and books utterly fail is that while the authors are trying their best to write as “perfectly” as possible they overlook the reality that most readers don’t care as much about literary perfection as some in the industry would have them believe.

It’s not perfection they should be striving for.

By focusing on being perfect (and approved of) they fail where it matters most, and that’s in creating a connection with their readers.

Hunger Games and Twilight

I read about critics and literary purists tearing down books like Hunger Games and Twilight because they say those books are not “well written.”

Reality check: Their audience doesn’t care. And no matter how many times certain people stamp their feet and scream in outrage, that isn’t going to change.

So does this mean the world is filled with uneducated, foolish readers, nearly blind viewers and tone deaf listeners?

No. It means perfection isn’t necessary and sometimes it is a hindrance. If you want to win an academy award for a film you’re making, don’t expect too many of us outside of the film industry to actually watch it.

Never insult the audience

It’s so easy to call out the audience for not being more sophisticated or intelligent, and unable to recognize flawed work and call “crap,” crap.

Critics and elitists can say what they want, but ultimately you do want to write something that interests readers if you want to be read.

Instead, consider a lesson from all of this madness.

Just because a blog or book is grammatically perfect and the spelling is absolutely correct, without a single solitary typo to be found and it does all the right things in all the right places, that doesn’t mean anyone is going to want to read it. As a matter fact, it might be so by-the-book that the majority of readers will be put off by it.

Humans are not perfect and we know it.

That’s why pop culture is always more popular, not because it sucks and fans just don’t get what art really is, but because it seems more ‘real’ and ‘connected,’ even if flawed, and people like that. It reminds us of ourselves.

If you can give a reader the gift of “themselves” you’re on to something. No one really wants to be disconnected. Do they?

Self-publishing, DOOM!

Some editors, traditional publishers and even writers are going crazy over self-publishing because they think it is destroying industry standards and quality.

Disaster, they say! Unmitigated disaster!

How soon we forget.

Recording artists have been self-publishing their work for decades. Without self-publishing we may have never heard of Elvis, perhaps the most recognized name in music still today.

Elvis Presley, (The King, mind you), was discovered because he self-published a song for his mother. Then, when he finally hit the stage all hell broke loose. He was described as reckless, raw, and unprofessional, and oh, let’s not forget, too sexual. He was about as imperfect as they came at the time.

“True professional” artists not only insulted Elvis, but because they were insulting him, they indirectly insulted his audience, too, an audience that grew to include most of the world’s population.

Those “true professionals” said his voice wasn’t “good” enough, and because of their influence, Presley’s break out hit was delayed until he took it upon himself to sing a cover of “That’s All Right” (originally by Arthur Crudup) just after a recording session of standard oh-so-yawn invoking material. “That’s All Right” wasn’t intended to be recorded, he apparently just sang it for fun – to be himself.

Elvis sang “That’s All Right” his way and it was recorded. Bill Black remarked, “Damn. Get that on the radio and they’ll run us out of town.” So they put it on the B side of “Blue Moon of Kentucky”.

Ah, those of little faith. Once the audience heard “That’s All Right” they went crazy for it and the rest, as they say, is history.

Love me tender, love me true…

Here’s the thing, as writers we are way (and I mean waaaay) too hard on ourselves. We read too many books on editing, how to write flawlessly and we allow standards from a bygone era to keep us in a box while the rest of the world that “doesn’t know any better” moves on.

And what does this do? Make us better writers? Not always. Mostly it just serves as food for doubt. “Why doesn’t anyone care anymore?” We ask ourselves.

Maybe you’re not the next Hemingway, but do you want to be? Seriously?

Writers hold themselves back more than most anyone else.

(You can quote me on that, or tweet it.)

You don’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to write something critics will love and sing praises for.

Hey, if you’re lucky, maybe your writing will create a lynch mob of critics who will write scathing remarks about your work. I hope they do, because if they do then you will have written something that matters! It also means you’re attracting an audience.

Trust me, critics won’t care about you if you do not have an audience, because their job depends on an audience, too.

Why do so many blogs and books fail?

I answered this question, but really, it’s not as important as figuring out why popular blogs and books, which seem “flawed,” do very well.

It’s not that complicated, the authors write about what interests them and their audiences and they aren’t all that concerned with the literary police picking them up for a WUI (Writing Under the Influence). They’ve got something to say that matters and people want to hear it.

Now, I’m not saying you should throw caution to the wind and not make your work presentable. Having your work proof read and cleaned up so that it’s not totally annoying to read is still the right thing to do.

What I am saying is loosen up and stop being so hard on yourself and your writing. Don’t let Writer’s Doubt take over. No, you really don’t want to do that.

Here’s my advice, take a break from reading about how to write better and go write without worrying about perfection and approval. Just write. Let go.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you let go and write something that matters, it might be good enough. And if it’s not? Start over and write some more. Keep going – keep writing.

Strive for connection and not perfection.

Are you ready? Go write something for the sake of writing it, then come back here and share it in the comments.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Writer's Doubt the Book
  • Renia Carsillo

    Oh Bryan, you have no idea how much I needed to read this today. I’m currently doing first draft edits on my second book…You know, that time when you’re knocked out of victory lane with the reminder of how much work is still left to do. Thank you for the reminder about what is the most important–the message.

    • http://www.outcollectinglight.com/ Roni Delmonico

      I’d love a link to your first one.;-)

      • Renia Carsillo

        Roni, Here is the Amazon link. I don’t promote it anymore, because it’s not the direction I went in as a writer (and I pretty much did everything you could possibly do wrong when self-publishing). If you’re interested in reading where I’m headed now, I have excerpts from the new book on DevelopmentofTaste.com. Thanks for asking! http://amzn.to/1eeEmLC

        • http://www.outcollectinglight.com/ Roni Delmonico

          Thank you!:)

          • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

            I love it when I see people sharing their work with each other! Awesome!

          • http://www.outcollectinglight.com/ Roni Delmonico

            You’ve created such a sense of community here, Bryan. I enjoyed my time reading your posts and look forward to being part of your tribe. It’s funny, isn’t it? We seem to always get what we need, just when we need it, if we remain open. I found you and Renia both just exactly when I needed to hear the things you were saying, and was ready to hear them. And thank you SO much for taking the time to visit my blog!

          • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

            I agree absolutely, Roni. :)

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      It’s always “the message,” Renia. Always. Great writers know that, and yes, great writing comes from rewrites and editing, but never lose track of the message. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to connect. I hope you share it with me when you’ve completed it.

  • http://www.outcollectinglight.com/ Roni Delmonico

    I heard you loud and clear and you spoke to my heart, Bryan. Thank you. I only signed up for your emails a few days ago, and very glad I did. First time I read one from start to finish in a really long time. Here’s my rise to your challenge. http://outcollectinglight.com/blog/2014/2/9/spooning-it-into-my-mouth

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      I just check out your blog, Roni. Great content, and, yes, I love to see quotes by Bryan Hutchinson. :) Seriously though, you’ve got a great voice. If you don’t mind me saying so, I also believe you’re on the right path. Keep writing, find ways to help others with your words and you’ll gain the attention you deserve. I’m also a huge fan of “The Alchemist.” I love that book.

  • Renia Carsillo

    I’ve been quietly making a living as a writer for over two years. I’m no stranger to critiques. I just prefer the ones who do it in a respectful and up front way.

    Out of respect for Bryan’s space, I’ll leave it at that. Enjoy your weekend.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Renia, thanks for your support. I’ve deleted his last comment and I have blocked him from commenting on Positive Writer in the future. I’m open to healthy debate, as I see you are, too, but insults and rudeness, and hiding behind anonymity at the same time simply isn’t welcome here. I would have acted sooner, but I was not at a computer.

      • Renia Carsillo

        Thank you Bryan, I know how tough it is moderating comments while actually living! Keep up the inspiring work! :)

  • http://www.alifewellpenned.com/ Kim Penix

    Love it Bryan! I tend to write from the heart but then go back to edit with far less confidence and security in my message. I know as a reader I love to hear the honest, open writing of others but can’t seem to let myself go there as much. Thanks for the encouragement. Since you asked for us to share – here’s my latest http://alifewellpenned.com/wheres-god-when-life-lets-you-down/#respond

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Kim, I know this goes against everything we’ve been taught, but a great way to practice and help find and hone one’s voice is to share your first drafts. Of course, remove any typos and make sure your facts are correct, but other than that, share it and see what type of reactions you get. Positive Writer is not my first blog and as I mentioned to Andrea in another comment, on my first blog I practiced in public for several years and over the course of those years, publishing my work and through constant feedback I honed my writing. I’m still far from perfect but I AM getting better at connecting with my readers and sharing my message. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE and do it in public on your blog. :)

      Btw: I love the design of your blog!

      • http://www.alifewellpenned.com/ Kim Penix

        Thanks Bryan, sharing a first draft is a scary thought but I can see how it’s flowing right from the heart and sometimes that can get edited out in a rewrite. I’ll try it.

        • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

          Be sure to come back and share it with me! :)

  • Penelope Silvers

    Thanks for the permission to just write! I get so hung up on perfect speech and grammar and just the right word. It slows me down, and then the doubt starts to creep in. Let’s just write already and worry about the fixing later. Or maybe not! ;)

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      lol :) Oh, goodness, don’t get me started on finding the right word. Let me share my experience about the ‘right’ word with you. Usually when I start searching for a word to use the word I find isn’t the ‘right’ word. I’ve learned to use the first word that pops into my head as if I’m discussing something with a friend. When we simply talk with someone we use common words that everyone gets and understand immediately (normally, not always) and those I have found are the best words to use in my writing. If you get what I am saying, then I’ve succeeded in finding the right word. However, if you get completely stuck on a word in one of my articles, then I’ve failed to connect. Reading should be effortless without the need of a dictionary. :)

  • Tamara Peters

    Thanks for the reminder. I easily get caught up in trying to make it perfect, so this was a much needed reminder.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      We all do, Tamara. We all do. The key is to publish anyway and continue to improve while sharing your work.

  • Andrea Nordstrom

    What’s perfect to me may not be perfect to anyone else – thank you for that reminder Bryan! So many times I get lost in trying to make things sound “just so” and then realize the language in my head is not the language any of my readers would necessarily connect with. And if blogging – or writing – prioritizes anything before connection… well, its not really writing. Its selling. And that’s a whole different matter.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Excellent, Andrea. Connection is less about “writing perfection” and more about connecting with your audience, and as you said what’s perfect for you might not be perfect for your readers.

      The reason I wrote this post is that I’ve received countless emails from fellow writers who are not willing to share their work publicly because they believe it’s flawed and needs to be honed, or, perfected. The truth is, if you want to write for readers the best thing you can do is practice in public. That’s pretty much what I did with ADDer World for all those years. I practiced my writing in public and along the way discovered the best ways to connect with my readers through my writing.

    • http://www.outcollectinglight.com/ Roni Delmonico

      Wow, Andrea.. that last sentence is certainly worth chewing on!

  • Ewa

    Thank you for this post. =) Made me reconsider some of the old things I wrote for posting, and who knows.. may have even removed the writing block of my shoulders.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Awesome, Ewa! Thank you for letting me know. :)

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Wow! Writing in my second language has certainly not been the best writing, but those who read …seem to like what I say. Even so, always in doubt! Thank you for this great encouraging post, Bryan!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      What you’ve got to say is always priority #1. Thanks, Katina!

  • http://www.thewritingrealm.com/ Alicia Rades

    Awesome post! I love the part about Elvis. While reading this, I had so many books in my head that are popular but terrible. It’s disappointing but still encouraging that imperfect writing can still make it.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Hi Alicia, and the funny thing is, what we consider terrible someone else might consider the best ever. It’s true, we all have different tastes and what matters to me and you, might not matter to others. The world is a funny place, but that’s what makes things so interesting. Maybe imperfect writing is perfect in its own way. I can’t read Salinger to save my life, but my wife absolutely loves his writing. She’s not a fan of Stephen King and I’m one of his biggest fans. I guess the moral of this story is just write and don’t worry about who might not like it, because you’re not writing for them anyway. :) Just think if Stephen King changed his writing to meet my wife’s expectations of what good writing is? Nooooooooo! Btw, this bring up a funny story, my wife was lucky enough to meet Stephen King and because she loves me she got his autograph for me. I’ve never met him. – That’s just the way it goes sometimes. They are in the picture below.

  • Helena

    Hi Bryan, I think I get what you’re trying to say, but let me say up front that I don’t agree with you. At all. You make it seem like a connection to your readership is the ONLY thing which matters when it comes to writing, which I think is just not true. Your only motivation to write should come from the inside, not from some kind of people-pleasing. I do agree that you shouldn’t let perfectionism hold you back (believe me, I’ve been there), but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try your hardest. I am hard on myself as a writer, and while that’s difficult sometimes, I think it also dramatically improves my writing.

    I think you should consider your motivation to write. If you want to write a good story, or if you want to connect to an audience, then I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much that you strive for “literary perfection”, or even grammatically correct sentences. But if you want to write because you want to achieve quality, or because you want to express yourself, more so than to please others, then I don’t see why you should (to use a maybe disrespectful term) dumb it down for other people’s sake. I’m honestly not that interested in reaching a wide audience. I want to reach an audience, certainly, but only those who care about the things which matter to me – the things I choose to write about.

    To put it simply: I don’t think you should write to please anyone but yourself. Not for literary critics, not for a readership. If that means that you write maybe a bit clumsily, in English riddled with grammar mistakes, then why not? (I’m not saying this sarcastically) If that’s how you express yourself, then do it. But if you, on the other hand, want to write beautifully balanced and grammatically perfect sentences, because that’s what YOU enjoy, then that is okay too. The point, to me, is that the only sustainable motivation to write is internal, not external. A connection to a readership should only be secondary.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Sounds like you’ve got it figured out, Helena.

  • http://www.Marketing4Traffic.com/ Devani Anjali Alderson

    Such a good reminder… Reminds me of Seth Godin’s “Ship It” message about just getting your work out there and being okay with the imperfections. Bottom line is that if you’re worried about it being perfect, then it’s not helping anyone at all… but if you ‘ship it’ then it’s out, and it’s helping and doing it’s job.

    Funny how we tend to want our own work to be perfect yet as humans, are quick to judge when someone else’s is not, isn’t it? (not implying we all do this, but it’s just an interesting pattern to note).

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      So well said, Devani. I could not agree with you more!

  • Tessa-Marie Shillingford

    I read your blog and it ecouraged me to post something I wrote. Here it is…

    JOY

    When we hear the word Joy it brings laughter and happiness
    to mind. To be joyful one has to feel
    the joy from inside. Joy makes you feel
    full like you have had a scrumptious meal. Sometimes, we talk about joy as if it were a
    matter, a thing we can touch feel and see.

    Joy is magical and mysterious it makes us feel warm cozy and
    to a point smug. When you are full of
    joy, it shows on your face your voice and in your demeanor.

    Joy makes you stand tall joy, causes you to walk with a bounce
    in your step; joy makes you strong and in your own space. You create your
    personal joy no other person can contribute to your joy. Joy starts from within and this is the magic
    of joyfulness.

    We often are told do not ever let that person steal your joy
    away from you, how does one take away your joy?
    We allow our joy to be taken away from us in the way we decide to react
    to life and circumstances. Joy stealers
    are all around us; they may come in the form of a friend, family, teachers and
    complete strangers. A Joy stealer is the
    person who says to you that you are not good enough that you won’t succeed in
    doing a particular thing or choosing a particular career path. The joy stealers themselves are joyless,
    because someone somewhere told them that they would never amount to
    anything. Joy stealers are often hurting
    more than they can hurt you.

    You need to recognize the joy stealers and know where they
    are coming from; if you do not know them for what they are they will surely
    stop you from keeping and maintaining your joy.
    You should feel joy everyday and when you cannot find or feel your joy
    go searching until you come up with your joy.
    Then place it where it belongs in that special place that no one can
    touch.

    Wake up everyday knowing that you have a limitless amount of
    joy and you are willing to share with all those you meet throughout the
    day. Sharing your joy brings more joy to
    you. The more joy you give the more joy you will have.

    Just try it and let me know what happen.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      I Love it, Tesse-Marie! Thank you for sharing with us! :)

  • Karen Gough

    Thanks for the encouragement and reality check!

  • Dr Rie Natalenko

    There are two separate ideas here, Bryan – connection with the audience and correct grammar. I feel that, as self-respecting writers, we should strive for both.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Yes, we should strive for both, agree. But not stall for them.

  • Katharine

    My high school art teacher required us to master the basics before we took off into exploratory styles, and I think that applies to writing, also. It is important to know the rules about all grammar and punctuation in whatever language you choose, before making decisions about breaking those rules.
    That is art from a master.
    Otherwise, we only produce what any child could.
    Bob Dylan had a beautiful baritone voice, demonstrated in his elegy for Lenny Bruce. He kept it under wraps, though, until very late in his career, because his talky style sold.
    It should always be a matter of ignoring the wavy green line ON PURPOSE, not from illiteracy or inconsiderateness.
    Thanks for a lot to think about!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Hi Katharine, I get what you’re say, but I try to stray away from telling someone what they are doing is right or wrong. For example, it would be easy to tell the blogger I used as an example she must to stop, stamp my feet and demand it, because she’s breaking the rules and not doing it on purpose. But wait… her readers don’t mind, her readership continues to grow and ultimately, her message is being shared widely. So, the question is, if she can do it and you know the rules, so you obviously won’t produce what any child could (which she must be producing), you should be doing it even better… right? Sounds good on paper, but in reality it doesn’t always play out that way. In pool we have a saying when we miss our mark by a wide margin, “It was so off the mark that it got back on the mark.” Life’s funny like that. The message is always more important. If you’ve got a message and willing to share it, being a writer able to teach writing 101 isn’t required. However, that’s not to say you don’t have a point or putting you on the spot, it’s just that there’s always more involved and it’s not always what we’ve been taught, even though that can be a bit upsetting.

  • Renia Carsillo

    It always amazes me how nasty critiques always seem to hide behind anonymity. I think you’re missing the point. Bryan has written numerous blogs about the importance of careful writing. The point here, is about letting go so the work can be finished. If you can’t do that, you can’t be a writer. Most of the work of being a writer is done in re-writes, but new writers don’t understand this. They think it has to be perfect the first time around, which kills creativity.

    Oh, and by the way, he’s not wrong. The Hunger Games, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey and pretty much all the George RR Martin books are riddled with errors in plot structure (and some in grammar). It doesn’t matter. People still love the story. At the end of the day, story matters most.

  • http://www.outcollectinglight.com/ Roni Delmonico

    I tend to think every great writer was lousy in the beginning. Perhaps the beauty in what Bryan is saying, is that it encourages those who are still in the “lousy” stage, not to give up..

  • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

    “Ting” – Simply stating writing is lousy and the author has nothing to say that anyone wants to hear is a great opening for a debate about what is “lousy” and failing to connect even when you do have something to say that people want to hear, but you might not be conveying it in a way that is connecting… I’m open to that debate and welcome it…

    However, it’s very difficult to engage in open discussion with someone who is chooses to be insulting and rude. I use the word “choose” because how you respond is a choice, even if you disagree. Therefore, sadly, reading over some of your other rude comments to others, I have blocked you from commenting further on Positive Writer. It’s so rare to have to do that now a days because commenting has gotten better since most sites have started moderating their comments for such behavior.

    It’s not about thick skin, it’s about respect. Some people have it, and some people don’t.

  • Disqus Ting

    The question posed is: Why do so many blogs and books utterly and completely fail? The answer is: because the writing is lousy “AND” the author has nothing to say that anyone wants to hear. There is no other reasonable answer, and the author and you are wrong. With regard to the books you mentioned, I don’t read that sort of thing, but what I do know is there are millions that do, so they are certainly writing something millions want to hear. As to whether their writing is lousy, you obviously do read that sort of thing, so you would know better.

    Frankly, I think the author has some good points, but he is not correctly answering the question he posed. If he wants to write an article about getting off the dime and not going after perfection, so be it. But he purports to be providing a reason for the failure of blog and book writers.

    As to anonymity, anyone that doesn’t do their best to stay anonymous online in this day and age is nuts. And if the comments section is not the place to disagree, then what is it for? Cheerleading? What it is not for is telling other people they don’t have a right to their own opinion….

  • Renia Carsillo

    I’m reading The Artful Edit by Susan Bell right now. She goes through a number of the edits made to The Great Gatsby and shows how the book looked in first draft, versus what it became. I think every would-be writer needs to read this book and see that even the great masters don’t do it right from day one.

  • Renia Carsillo

    First, I didn’t say they were lousy, I said they have errors. That is a different thing. I read some popular fiction for two reasons. First, I like good stories and have little snobbery around what that means. Second, I would like to make a living writing stories. That means writing things people actually want to read and having a finger on the pulse of literature, whether popular fiction or not, is a good idea.

    Regarding anonymity online, it doesn’t exist. I’m perfectly fine with comments that disagree. It is one of my favorite things about blogging. However, I think critique–particularly scalding critique–should be delivered with complete transparency or not at all. This is simply my opinion, as someone who’s been on both sides of the critiques numerous times. It answers the question, “Is my comment helpful enough to the writer to warrant putting my name on, or am I just being difficult?” Again, just my opinion as an avid consumer and producer of words.