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There Is No Bar — But Having One is Good Too

As it relates to blogging, I’ve seen encouragement to Just Publish It™️. Matt says just put stuff out there while Chris adds that there is no bar for the quality of a blog post.

I agree. I enjoy Matt’s and Chris’ approaches to blogging and I subscribe to and read both.

But, I have an itching asterisk I want to attach to my agreement. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. It has a personal bent to it, like “I like that generally, but not for myself specifically” kind of thing.

Personally I tend towards the “don’t publish it, it’s not good enough” end of the spectrum. For example, I currently have fifty — that’s right 50 — blog post drafts. Some are quite long, full of disjointed thoughts and commentary in need of an edit. Others are quite short, containing a punchy thought in need of expansion and nuance. And if I have to guess how many of those posts will publish, I would say maybe ten at most.

Why? I don’t think they’re good enough. I’m not sure what I mean by “good enough”, hence this post. I think what I mean is: they’re thoughts that don’t go anywhere and I don’t know where to take them. Some run in circles, seeking to go somewhere but never going anywhere. Others run contrary to some prevailing wisdom, then stop, offering no alternative suggestion or an accompanying rationale.

I agree with Chris that there’s no bar. But personally, I want one. Why? I’ve been reading Steven King’s On Writing and I think he helped me realize why:

Hard writing makes for easy reading. (307)

If you’re writing for yourself there is, almost radically, no bar. In that scenario, it’s the writing that’s important, not the reading. You bang some characters out on a keyboard, in the process your brain and heart work through some things, and then you’re done. Keep the words, throw them away, it doesn’t matter. It’s the act of writing that matters. You could literally just bang keys on a keyboard if that helps.

My first post:

al;kasjlk sdjf;la skdjfie fjalife ja;eisfj ai ifjeaifja; lsfjoaijf aiefj asf;f ieafj.

aesfl;ka fiajfklasdfj aijfeaf. Fjiejal eif alif eia lfkefuai.

If banging on a keyboard is helpful, do it, but the output will likely be of no use to somebody reading it. You might know what all those characters mean because you remember the thoughts and emotions going through your head when you typed them, but I doubt anyone else knows. Perhaps it’s a silly illustration, but if there’s a reader you’ll want some form of coherence and intelligibility.

So if you’re writing because you want other people to read your writing, some bar can be useful. As King says, writing is refined thinking and hard writing makes for easy reading. Writing is hard for you so that reading can be easy for others.

Come to think of it, writing is the easy part. That’s why I have fifty drafts. It’s the rewriting and editing that’s hard. Here’s King again:

When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story…When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. (57)

This is the state of my blog post drafts. They’ve been written but not rewritten. They’re the artifact of making words from my thoughts. They’re jumbled, more emotional than thoughtful. It’s the rewriting and editing that turns them into more coherent, intelligible thoughts — for me and, I believe, anyone else who reads them. Here’s King again:

2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%…If you can’t get out ten percent [of your draft] while retaining the basic story and flavor, you’re not trying very hard. The effect of judicious cutting is immediate and often amazing (223)

There is no bar for a blog post. But, having some bar which asks for a little rewriting and editing can have an immediate and amazing effect — for you and your readers.