Positive Writer

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Comfort Writing and How To Avoid It

From Bryan: This is a guest post by James Prescott, he is a writer and author from Sutton, near London, in the UK and blogs regularly at JamesPrescott. He recently released his first e-book, ‘5 Steps to Encouragement: A Manifesto for Changing the World’ which can be obtained free here.

Most of us have heard the term ‘comfort eating’. I know the phrase all too well. A bad day can still occasionally lead to me devouring a couple bars of chocolate or a few donuts.

Comfort eating makes me feel better about myself for a short period of time. It’s taking the easy route. But it’s not healthy, and it’s not valuing myself or my body.

And strangely enough, it’s the same with writing.

Creative Commons by Amy LYah

Creative Commons by Amy LYah

When we turn pro, we give up a life with which we may have become extremely comfortable.

~Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro (Tweet This Quote)

I’ve been blogging for several years and I’ve trained myself to write a decent post.

But I’ve written posts and not gone over them as much as I should have before posting them.

Now in one sense this is a good idea. To get into the habit of writing posts effectively and efficiently is good. At times we need to write and publish quickly – and sometimes, it can challenge us and help us grow.

But there is a difference between this, and what I call ‘comfort writing’.

Last year I got an opportunity to guest post for a site with a much larger readership than my own. It was a huge opportunity for me.

So do you think I wrote an every day standard blog post?

Of course not. I worked extra diligently on the post. I went through several drafts before finally submitting the post to be published. I took my time, I made sure nothing was left to chance.

As a result, it turned out to be one of my best. It got a positive response from a lot of people.

But I realized then I wasn’t giving blog posts for my own blog the same time and attention. Without knowing it, I’d lowered my standards for my own blog.

I was comfort writing.

All writers can be tempted to comfort write. But when you comfort write, you are settling for second best. You won’t be growing as a writer, you’ll be stagnating.

And you’re not valuing the gift you’ve been given.

Comfort writing can occur unexpectedly, often without you even realizing it. You get into a habit of writing and posting and for whatever reason – tiredness, complacency or just plain laziness – you don’t pay quite as much attention to the quality.

When writing and blogging begins to feel like a hobby, or you feel you can get away with spending less time on posts, or you don’t feel like you’re growing as a writer, you’re most likely comfort writing.

It’s a temptation which strikes us all.

So how can we avoid comfort writing?

Here’s some tips:

1) Ask yourself ‘Would a major blogger publish this?’

Before you decide to publish any piece of writing, stop and ask yourself “If I was submitting this to a major blog (i.e.: Relevant Magazine, Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt), would it be of sufficient standard for them?”

If the answer is no, then it shouldn’t be good enough for you either.

2) Don’t publish the first draft

Try to avoid posting the first draft. Go back and edit, and be ruthless. Give the message time to marinade – leave it and come back to it later.

3) Be a pro, not an amateur

Don’t write like it’s a hobby. If you want to grow as a writer, you need to be professional in your attitude. A great book for this is “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield. In it he writes:

The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.

4) Get regular feedback

This isn’t necessary true for every piece, but sometimes it’s good to get others feedback on your work before you publish it. Find someone whose judgment you trust and who’ll be honest, and ask them to critique your writing regularly.

A wise second pair of eyes is invaluable to maintaining your standards.

It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of comfort writing. I have done it, and you probably have too. But we need to avoid it as much as we can.

So take these steps today. Not only will you avoid comfort writing, it will mean something amazing:

You’ll  closer to becoming the writer you were made to be.

Have you fallen into the trap of comfort writing? Share 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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  • Great questions! It’s hard to step back and let our writing “marinate”, but the process is essential – both in writing and cooking – to add flavor and depth.

    • Thanks Noah, really appreciate your comment & encouragement. I’m glad you agree with the marinading idea, hope it goes well!

  • troy mc laughlin

    Thanks James. When we have our own blogs we are the gate keepers. That can be a problem. Instead of raisng the bar we may lower it. Not good. That’s why as you said another set of eyes are so important. Also would the “Godin’s”and “Hyatt’s” publish this is a great question we should ask ourselves.

    I’m asking this the next time I post. Am I raising the bar on my writing or am I lowering it because I got lazy?

    • No probs Troy – glad the post helped you, and totally agree. What you talk about is definitely the step forward, let me know how it goes.

  • Anne Peterson

    Nice post James. You’re encouraging us to give our best to others and to do the same for ourselves. I thought you provided some practical advice. I have not read Steven Pressfield’s book as yet. And I think the idea of letting something marinate is a great idea. There are some who are hesitant to hit send. And others who perhaps send it off a little too quickly.

    • Thanks Anne, really encouraged this helped you. I cannot recommend the book enough, both books by Pressfield made a huge difference to me & I try to read them once a year if I can to remind myself. They are short books and relatively easy to read, I am sure you’ll benefit from them.

      The marinading is always helpful, though obviously there are times where it’s better not to or you just don’t have time. However, the best posts are usually those you have marinaded over and given thought to. Let me know how it goes.

  • I’ve moved nine years of posts from Xanga which is closing to WordPress – my writing has improved over the years. I cringe at the spelling and grammar mistakes of earlier posts. Those that are important, I’m slightly editing. Because I don’t know if WordPress offers a Zip save function, I’m now writing my posts on Word, editing them, then copying and pasting. It is helping me avoid sloppy errors. Have a blessed day.

    • Heather, that’s exactly what I do now, post from a word processing program. Even then, if you rush too much you can make errors, but it definitely helps. Thanks for the comment.

  • *Sigh* I’m not proud of it but I’m guilty of comfort writing. A couple of years ago, I had a regular, dependable gig writing a weekly blog post at this startup’s website. At first I was extremely excited and gave every post my all, but after a while, complacency started to sink in and I started treating the column as something routine. Fortunately, I caught myself soon enough.

    You offered some good, practical tips to avoid comfort writing. Asking the question “Would a major blogger publish this?” has been the most effective for me.

    I also think that comfort writing is a sign that we need to grow. If we find ourselves doing it, it’s probably time step out of our comfort zones and try something new. 🙂

    • Don’t worry Francesca – I think we are all guilty of it at times as writers. The reason I made the “would a major blog publish this” the first step is precisely because it’s usually the one which can make the most difference. It certainly has for me.

  • Ann Marie Thomas

    Thanks James, and thanks Bryan for posting this. I have two main themes on my blog, and post on two specific days each week, but this can creep up on me. I suddenly realise that it’s Writing Wednesday or Thinking Thursday and I haven’t a clue what to write.

    I’ve started a file where I jot down ideas or links to pieces I’ve already written that can be turned into future posts. I’m also trying to always write my posts beforehand, so I can come back and improve them before I post. If I don’t have something ready, although I hate to miss a day, I don’t post. I would rather not post than post something ruched.

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  • mercynotes

    This is good stuff. So helpful. Thanks!

  • Excellent post, James! I know I’ve done a lot of “comfort writing” on my blog for the sake of getting content out.

  • Valuable reminders, James! (Thinking to myself “Would James or Bryan publish this?”)