It’s happened to all of us. You’re in the shower, at an event or reading a book when an insight strikes. A brilliant insight, at that. Quick, you must inform the Internet immediately!
So you settle in at your computer to peck out your brilliance in the form of a blog post that will surely be read by thousands of people, retweeted dozens of times and lead to your book deal. That’s how it works, right? I mean, that’s what your English degree is for…isn’t it?
Yet what begins as a quick and steady flow of typing soon slows to a trickle. Your hands feel leaden, your mind bound. What you do type is either deleted moments later or left on the page to fester. When you re-read what you’ve written, your points feel weak and unsupported. You begin to panic. This blog post might not come to fruition after all.
Believe it or not, that may be the best thing that could happen to your brilliant idea.
Think about consumer goods. How often does a product rushed to market fail? Fairly regularly. And what is often the cause of said failures? A lack of testing or forethought. The same goes for a blog post. Don’t rush a quality idea to market simply because you can. You shouldn’t be afraid of leaving a blog post in draft mode for as long as necessary, and here’s why.
Feeling a Draft
After you write, you have to read, review, revise and read again. If something in your stomach still doesn’t sit right, save the post as a draft. Come back to it in an hour or the next day. Maybe everything will click in a week, or maybe never. Maybe that idea can’t stand on its own, but a thread of it can be woven into a future post on a related topic. If all else fails, don’t be afraid of letting it sit there indefinitely. Don’t forget—content is a commodity, and consumers can smell a fake a mile away.
Don’t let that shiny, blue button in WordPress – which represents the ability to publish whatever we want, whenever we want – make you feel like you are failing if you don’t press it, even if you’re not fully comfortable with what you’d be publishing. The button is not the publisher; you are.
Avoiding Trial by Fire
When you offer an opinion in conversation (“I think the new ‘A-Team’ movie is contrived,” “I think the new U2 album is a return to form”) and someone asks, “What do you mean?” that’s the moment your opinion is put to the mettle. Can you support your pithy conversational nugget with a well-reasoned argument?
If you’re trying to blog and you’re not there just yet, that’s OK—sleep on it and try it again tomorrow. But if you publish prematurely, just imagine that chilling moment in a conversation where you realize you’ve uttered BS and someone has just called you on it.
The best ideas are often the ones that seem craziest at their outset. But the path between a crazy idea and success is lined with patience. Will your insight stand the test of time? Will it make as much sense tomorrow as it does today in the glow of its conception?
Often, unpublished blog posts end up being testing grounds for new ideas. Those ideas may not yet be fully formed, which is probably why they aren’t coming out right on the page. But the act of trying to write them out in a cogent manner is helping you think through them, even if it’s not apparent at the time. It can be a frustrating process, certainly. We know we’ve got something good, and we may fault ourselves for not being able to bring it to fruition. But writing is about patience. Sure, we’re living in the era of the real-time web, but while the act of publishing and distribution is instantaneous, the creative process is not.
In the push-button era of blogging, we sometimes forget about the value of the free write. There is something about simply getting your thoughts down on paper (or screen, as it were), no matter how jumbled or incomplete.
Blogging not only therapeutic, but the act of putting your thoughts into words helps you think about them more. Perhaps it’s the physical act of typing or writing that loosens up some previously dormant brain cells. Whatever it is, blog writing need not always lead to publication. It can—and often should—be its own end.
Draft posts are always good to go back to when you’re short on ideas or simply in the mood to write. I have a decent number of draft blog posts that are no more than just a thought or a phrase that crossed my mind and might merit further exploration at some point. Some of those sparks may eventually become fully fleshed out analyses. Some may never catch aflame. But that’s OK. At least I hooked the idea to the line at the time it came to me.
I also have a few comprehensive posts in draft, some of which I literally spent hours on. While it might be tempting to kick myself for wasting my time, it’s important to realize that any time spent writing—even if the words never see the light of day—is educational time well spent.