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.
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?
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.