The Unexpected Advantage of Writing 100+ Bad Articles
Bad writing. It doesn’t discriminate.
Whether you’re a bright-eyed amateur or an ink-slinging, minted professional, you’re due for a few duds.
It’s the brutal truth. And this isn’t writing riddled with typos or incorrect subject-verb agreement. This is the underwhelming, disconnected, shallow type of writing. The kind that leaves a void between what was promised and what was delivered. The kind that smart writers and keen readers can pinpoint.
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
If you’re a writer or artist of any sort, doing work you’d consider subpar, there’s good news for you. There’s a considerable upside to this all.
In this article, I’m going to tell you why writing bad now is actually a great investment for you and your future.
Here are the few lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) from writing articles that weren’t the most stellar.
A bad writer is still a writer.
Yes, this may seem cheap. But it’s still true.
Your ability or lack thereof takes nothing from you. If you write, you have the honor of wearing the coveted title of Writer.
There’s no committee to mail you a certificate or adorn you with a sash. Good articles or not, if you write, call yourself a writer.
Before becoming the megastar he is today, Ed Sheeran was hitting bars and clubs in LA. Until one night, the multi-talented Jamie Foxx was in the audience. So you see, repetition matters. Do the verb to become the noun.
But the same holds true for the opposite also.
As a writer, the act of avoiding writing and procrastinating gives you a new title. So don’t become a non-writer by holding back your bad work. Put one word in front of the other, and keep going.
“The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance. Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.” — Jeff Goins
No one is keeping count like you.
No one is keeping a record of your bad art. And even better, creating bad art won’t send you to hell. In fact, this is the absolute best time in the world for writers to write horribly.
My own personal tally of bad articles is over 100. Maybe 200+ both on and off Medium. But I’m the only one counting. And chances are, you’re the only one counting your own mistakes. You’re the only one keeping track of how much better you could’ve written a piece.
What truly most, though? How you bounce back.
The road to success is paved with mistakes.
Scour the back catalogs of some of your favorite writers and you’ll see the overwhelming evidence. They’re human.
Some famous writers even share those more humbling days in their work today. The road to success is paved with stupidity and mistakes. Those who are unafraid to withstand it can endure anything, eventually, achieve their version of success.
Simply put: Write badly, and as often as you can.
The endurance and resilience you build from doing the work — no matter how cringe-worthy — could catapult you later. But before you’re a great writer, you’ll likely be an average or bad one first. Keep writing.
You and your horrible writing are not the same.
So many new writers intertwine their ability with their identity. Which reveals a deeper issue of self-worth. Often, we’re unfair judges of our own work, we rush to judge unfinished writing and we measure it based on others’ work.
And even worse, we believe that our intrinsic value and our quality of work are the same. But we couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here’s something that helps me:
Whenever I enter a spiral of self-criticism, I imagine I’m speaking to a friend. Now, if your friend asked you to evaluate their work, would you say those same things? Would you tear them down? Or would you encourage them? Would you highlight their strong points? In what tone would you critique them?
Now, I’m in no way promoting delusion. But more often than not, we’re a lot tougher on ourselves than we need to be.
When first starting out, sometimes, there’s a skill-gap that exists between our writing output and what we believe is great writing. This just means you have great taste in art.
For many writers, it takes years to actually close in on that gap. But it’s almost impossible to close the gap if you believe you’re completely incapable. Or that your current skill level is somehow representative of who you are as a person.
Three of my favorite books for overcoming this ability-identity shift are:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
‘Bad writing’ is just data.
With analytics at the forefront of this digital age, writers have the opportunity to improve on content creation missteps. Simply put, bad writing provides a chance to improve on where we fell short. But only for those willing to view their writing from the lens of ever-evolving, rather than fixed and stagnant.
Article didn’t perform as well as you thought it would?
Find well-performing articles on the same topic and identify 2–3 things they did differently.
Readers not engaging in your content?
Identify what your audience wants by studying personas, pulling your analytics report, or by polling your audience directly on what kind of content they’d like to read.
Blog not growing in readership?
Study other blogs’ (in and outside of your niche) content, marketing, and strategies. Regardless of our good intentions and desire to create and share what we believe to be our best work, sometimes, those beliefs are clouded by our need to add to the deluge of content that already exists.
Let the data — not your emotions — inform you on why your writing is not connecting.
You’re getting paid to practice writing.
With the Internet, there are endless ways to get paid to write. Even if you’re just starting out. The demand for content hasn’t slowed. And that’s great news for upcoming writers. Here are a few ways to earn a buck for your writing online:
Write for Medium.
This might be an obvious one. Sign up for the Medium Partner Program. This is one of the simplest ways to get paid to practice your writing. Granted, there’s some strategy required to cash in big. But there’s money to be earned for those willing to work. Click here for an insightful guide from Ayodeji Awosika on how to make your first $1,000 writing on Medium.
Write books and ebooks.
There are many writers making a great living from selling books on Amazon or exclusively on a platform like Gumroad. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, there’s a market for books online. As with anything, do your due diligence on what markets pay and writers that successful in those niches.
Write for freelance clients.
If you don’t want to write for yourself, you can write for others. This could entail copywriting, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing — the list goes on.
84% of B2B marketers are outsourcing content creation. — Smart Insights
You could even ghostwrite. I did this for two years when I ghost-blogged for an all women’s gym.
This is a great time to jump in as a newbie. By pitching your services to businesses in need, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Write to promote your own products or services.
Your writing doesn’t always need to pay you directly. Meaning, your writing can lead to a bigger payoff, given your approach. If you have a product or service, you can use your writing to market, sell and promote it, just as you would another company.
Whether you’re writing a sales page, captions on Insta, or Google ads copy, there are ways to up your writing skills while also pushing your brand. Great writing can often be the missing piece to connecting your ideal customer to your product.
Your definition of ‘bad writing’ is helping someone else.
Lastly, your bad writing will serve as encouragement for your audience and other writers. Your persistence, your story, and your body of work will be exemplary.
While the glory comes in success, the true reward is the character you cultivate in those dark hours, when no one is paying attention. That character will shine in your work, your writing, your art. It’s an intangible that can’t be bought.
When readers can look back on your first attempts, it’ll be evidence of your creative growth — and theirs. This article, even if it’s bad, will hopefully inspire someone to continue writing. Because no matter where you’re at in your writing journey, there will always be room to learn and grow. That is an inevitable truth, whether you’re a veteran or a beginner.