Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Stop the Madness Before Your Writing is Utterly Destroyed

Do you want to get back to writing work that matters, work that is good enough to make a difference and be appreciated?

Of course you do. So do I. But there’s a problem. And it’s a BIG problem. It’s holding you back. It’s holding me back. It’s holding nearly everyone back and it’s getting worse. Our writing is getting destroyed by it.

Let’s put a stop to the madness…


Step 1:

Do you have an idea you want to write about? A new idea, something unique and interesting?

Good. Before we go any further, if you’re not driving a vehicle or pushing a shopping cart (pull over if you are), write down your idea on a scrap piece of paper. Keep it to just one sentence if possible. Use two sentences if necessary, but no more than two.

Got it? Good. Put your scrap piece of paper somewhere safe.

Step 2:

Now that you have an idea, it’s time to find out if it’s a good idea.

  1. Take a brief poll via Facebook or another popular social network to find out if anyone is interested in your new idea. With the poll you just want yes or no answers to find out if the yeses outnumber the no’s.
  2. If you get more yeses, then your next stop is to take a survey. If you have a blog, ask your readers what they think of your new idea. If you don’t have a blog, then post the survey on your favorite social network. I also recommend using Survey Monkey.
  3. If the survey had negative or mediocre results, you should consider starting over with a new idea. If you continued to get positive results with your survey, then proceed. It’s time to create a focus group! You’ll use the people in the focus group to ask about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards your idea. And of course, brainstorm ways to make your idea even better and more valuable.

Step 3?

If you made it to step 3, congratulations! (Or, maybe not.)

You’re probably exhausted and a little unsure, perhaps even depressed. Your idea seemed so fresh and exciting when it first popped into your consciousness, but after Step 2, it probably seems unoriginal and banal, and with good reason, because now it is.

When it comes to art, any kind of art, but especially writing, which is so personal and expressive, polls, surveys and focus groups can destroy not just your work, but your passion for it as well.

Once you concede to these devices, it’s not your idea anymore and the odds of you giving up are much higher than if you had just gone with your initial instincts and written it out the way you wanted to express it.

If you want to value your idea, be damned with what anyone else might think about it, good, bad, ugly, or indifferent. Only then does it have any chance of becoming something extraordinary.

Write what you believe in and believe in what you write. (Click to Tweet)

Did you become a writer to write about what you want to write about or what others in some disconnected focus group thinks you should write about?

Besides, how the heck do they know what to do with your idea? How can they?

If focus groups were so great Disney’s movie Tomorrowland would not have flopped so hard this past summer. Let’s not even talk about that catastrophic flop, The Lone Ranger, from just a couple years ago. He was “Lone” alright.

According to co-writer, Damon Lindelof, they cut 15 minutes of footage from Tommorowland as a result of focus group comments. (Source.) I enjoyed Tomorrowland, but it did seem like it was missing something.

No wonder J.J. Abrams kept the wraps on Star Wars: The Force Awakens so tightly. It was so super secret that the actors themselves didn’t even know the entire story for the movie they were staring in!

Can you imagine the feedback J.J. would have gotten if he would have asked the public what they thought of his plans for the movie?

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

Hell, I’m still conflicted after watching the final product – I loved it – I hated it – Noooooo! I loved it. Right? Well, I don’t know. I need to watch it another hundred times before I’m certain. Good thing J.J. didn’t ask me.

It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. —Steve Jobs

As a writer, you’re taking the risk that people will hate your final product, or worse, no one will care about it. Those are always part of the risks when it comes to creating art. It’s also what makes art so dangerous, yet fascinating and special.

If you’re feeling discouraged and drained about the writing you’re doing, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board and rediscover why you started writing in the first place.

Let’s stop the madness!

Remember that scrap piece of paper with your idea on it? Find it and start over, and this time, for heaven’s sake, skip Step 2.

“Research shows unequivocally that brainstorming groups produce fewer and poorer quality ideas than the same number of individuals working alone.” (Source: Business Strategy Review, Volume 11, Number 4, 1 April 2000, pp. 21-28(8) Affiliations: Business Psychology Unit, University College London)

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. —Vincent van Gogh

Why did you start writing? I’d love to know, share in the comments.

Star Wars Picture: LucasFilm

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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  • Oh boys. At the begining I thought it was going to be how I SHOULD take surveys. Got me scared for a moment. 😀

  • I do like polling ideas with my audience and my Facebook “fam,” as I like to call them. They do generate a lot of interest. Also, I’ve seen Star Wars twice now and can safely say it’s awesome and perfect. 😉

    • Awesome and perfect? Awesome yes! Perfect…. well… we’re all flawed anyway. 🙂

  • Christine Niles

    THANK YOU! Now, I’m a big believer in knowing and evaluating the market, and in not wasting time over and over again writing things that don’t connect with readers, but there’s a big movement right now to overthink things that should be simpler. Create something small, throw it out there, and create something else. Rinse and repeat. Grow as you go. Pick your cliche…and just do it. 😉

  • srvnGod

    Because I loved it.

  • Maira Khalid
  • I can only laugh, Bryan. The publishing industry itself is SO bad at marketing studies! No one ever knows what’s going to take off–until it does. And then they all want “that,” but “different.” Lol.
    As I write Literary Fiction, I learned long ago to watch all the genres traipse by on their way to stardom and then obscurity. And mainly, to write what I write 🙂
    Thank you for this post!

    • The funny thing about that, Susan, is that each individual has a unique personality and unique experiences, along with talents etc, what someone does great doesn’t mean just anyone can replicate it. We can learn from each other, but it’s best to follow our own path. Writing is much the same, I believe. Thanks!

      • Absolutely true, Bryan! I’m a free-lance editor too, and counsel my writers that way. I’m giving the keynote address at a big literary conference this spring, and the title is Why I Write. Writers are all unique!

  • Glenda

    Bryan-I started writing because I discovered the writer in me in the sixth grade. A fabulous teacher ignited a passion in me to share my thoughts with others. Encouraging readers is my main focus these days. 🙂

  • I write because my inner life is so active I’ll explode if I don’t constantly write & make room for the new ideas & thoughts coming in. Problem then becomes too many ideas to do something with. Difficult to focus, and & I find myself constantly generating ideas but making little progress beyond that.

  • I write because I discovered about 12 months ago how much I enjoy writing and wanted to learn more.