The Most Horrible Blog Post Ever

Horrible

Have you ever felt like your blank screen is having a staring contest with you?

And it’s winning?

You want to get that blog post written — you really do — but the words just aren’t flowing. They’re not even dripping.

“But I don’t know what to saaaaaaay!” you protest.

Or, “It won’t be good enough!”

Or the ever-popular, “But it’s not original!”

So you sit there, your mind as frozen as the surface of an icy pond. You just know that whatever you manage to type is going to be the worst piece of writing in the history of . . . well, writing.

But it’s not true. I’m here to tell you why you should go ahead and write The Most Horrible Blog Post Ever. Here are several reasons to stop worrying about the quality of your writing and just publish the darn thing.

1. It’ll Give You Courage

Expanding your boundaries might be unhealthy for waistlines, but it’s great for learning what you’re capable of. Zen teacher and writer Cheri Huber says, “Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.”

The opposite is also true. By just writing something and hitting the “Publish” button, you’ll train yourself to overcome your inner demons, and the next time you sit down to write, it’ll be easier. Do this enough times, and you’ll reinforce courage to the point where it comes naturally.

That’s when writing becomes fun.

2. You’ll Fail Faster

This one sounds like bad news, I know. But if you’re going to screw up, you might as well get it over with.

Imagine young Michelangelo: “Damn this marble! That’s the third piece I’ve broken this week! I may as well give up sculpting.” If he had, the world would be missing David and the Pietà.

The truth is, failure is a part of learning. If you ever want to master blogging, then you need to give yourself a chance to fail. The sooner you start, the faster you’ll improve.

So get started.

3. Happy Accidents Happen

When I was in college I took a wheel-thrown pottery class. I loved it, especially the surprises, like the clay that I wanted to shape into a bowl, but ended up becoming a mug instead. The handle looks a bit funky, and the mug will never win any design awards, but it holds heat like no store-bought chunk of stoneware ever has, and to this day it’s my favorite mug to drink from.

Similarly, any popular blogger will tell you some of their best posts resulted in trying to write something else, failing, and then realizing that they had stumbled onto something special. Sometimes genius isn’t so much a result of effort as a happy accident.

Which of your “bowl” blog posts will turn into distinctively funky mugs?

4. Nobody Likes Perfect People

One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is thinking their writing needs to be perfect.

Perfection is more important for neurosurgeons and auto mechanics. Authenticity is more important for bloggers, even if it means being authentically screwed up.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t know your stuff — authority isn’t something that can be faked. Just express that authority in a personal tone. People like reading a letter from a friend, coffee stains and all, much more than they like reading a textbook that’s flawless from cover to cover.

It’s all about being real. We all crave connection, and I think that’s why blogging has become such a popular medium. Its immediacy and candor provides a great environment for writers to relate honestly with their audiences and to have the courage to be vulnerable.

If you can find that courage, then your readers will love you, imperfections and all. Try it.

5. People Need You

This one is, in my opinion, the most important reason of all.

Right now, there are people searching for the posts that you’ve not yet written. They’re frustrated, they’re hurting, and the only way they are going to get relief is from the information inside your head.

Will you withhold it from them? Will you tell them that you can’t help them because . . . well . . . you haven’t thought of the best way to write it yet?

Or will you set aside your fears, just for the moment, and write The Most Horrible Blog Post Ever, just on the freak chance that maybe it’s not as bad as you think?

Because, you see, your readers aren’t looking for the “perfect” blog post. They’re looking for the blog post that’s perfect for them.

Your job is to write it.

Will you?

About the Author: Michelle Russell is a blogger who explores the perils of perfectionism at Practice Makes Imperfect. If you want to watch her flail imperfectly at social media, you can also follow her on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Michelle:

    I am sorry to say that I’m thinking of suing you for invasion of privacy. That’s only possible way you wrote this article – you got inside my head illegally! : )

    I really like the point about ‘Happy Accidents’. Reminds me about the idea to always shoot for the moon. Even if you don’t get there you’ll end up among the stars.

    Seriously, this is a fantastic article that I am bookmarking. Everytime I need a swift kick to just do it, I’ll come back to it again & again.

  2. Very inspiring post Michelle, thanks.

    Great quote too, “Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.”

    That’s something I need to remember, as I have an anxiety disorder. The more I choose to avoid certain situations, the worse the problem is the next time I have to deal with it.

    You’re exactly right, that the opposite applies, so thanks for reminding me.

    Of course this post will also help me with my blogging.

    Paul.

  3. Great thoughts. Advice every blogger should follow, especially the ones who think they know better….

    – Jeffery
    Author of “Learn How To Set Up A WordPress Blog and Forum”

  4. Love the post, I keep a continual list of blogs to write, many of them in rough draft format.

    When I’m totally stuck what to write, I go back and look at all of my rough drafts and get one finished up. Works for me everytime.

  5. Phew! When I read the headline I was thinking you were going to use my blog as an example. Was I relieved when I read the post.

    Like others, I loved the quote, “everytime we choose safety, we reinforce fear.” That’s true in so much of life.

    All the best!

    Melissa Paulik

  6. Of course, I find this line to mean the most for me:

    “Authenticity is more important for bloggers, even if it means being authentically screwed up. ”

    Going ahead and hitting ‘publish’ has given me the courage to write with more meaning, more thought, and more direction.

  7. What a beautiful post!

  8. Hi Michelle,

    This is an excellent article which rings so true. I used to be a real perfectionist and would ponder over whether to write a blog post on a particular topic because I had already seen it covered elsewhere or wondered whether I was of a high enough standard to speak about it.

    Now, I don’t care… and I think my blog is better for it. This is about the third time I have attempted a personal blog and it’s easily the best. Writing a blog should be enjoyable and not about worrying about what other people may think.

    The chances are, they won’t!

    David

  9. I loved the “You’ll fail faster” reason.

    Failure is good for you. The harder you fail-the faster you’ll succeed!

    Great Post!

    ~Igor

  10. This is a really great post! I love the last reason. Thinking that people really need the information that’s in my head and I just haven’t let it out yet really encourages me to want to write more. It makes me want to put down everything that pops in to my head because someone may be looking for that information.

    I’ve had some really bad post days. I don’t regret them though. When people come to my blog now, they get the whole picture. They can see where I’ve started and how far I’ve come.

    Great post!
    Matt

  11. Maybe the best encouraging post yet. Bravo!

  12. Wow, it’s great feeling to find an article closely related to what I just posted in my blog: “Why it’s hard for me to blog frequently” http://www.fxceed.com/_wpblog/2009/08/03/why-its-hard-for-me-to-blog-frequently/
    I will keep the five reasons for trying to write a bad blog

  13. Thank yor for saying this. I just had a bad hesitation problem recently. I know I can write; it was just a fear of not being original enough. Pressing through enabled me to move on and develop a greater sense of who I am as a blogger.

  14. I’ve written about a billion articles in my time – give or take a couple million — and 90 percent of the time I thought they sucked big time. But when I go back and re-read them with the luxury of time and perspective, they’re usually pretty damn good.

  15. @Mark – LOL–Bring on the lawsuit! And maybe I’ll see you on the moon? ;o)

    @Paul – I feel for you–that’s got to be a tough balance to strike. Bravo for not retreating from life!

    @Melissa – Actually, I kinda felt like I was using my OWN blog as an example!

    @David – Ahh! Another recovering perfectionist–good to meet you! And I’ll bet your blog is better now that you’ve managed to begin letting go of that urge to be original and an “expert.” I’m still trying to do that all the time.

    @Igor – Glad that line spoke to you. I almost didn’t include it because it sounded kind of harsh to me. But I also think it’s important to give that feeling of failure a voice, because it *is* a genuine feeling, and if we use it positively, it can be motivating, as you say.

  16. Lurline Halliman :

    This is sooooo very liberating. I so needed to hear something like this and I thank you so very much for it.

  17. Excellent post, Michelle! I’m continually amazed by how writing improves in every way with simple practice. You have to stand aside and let the words have their say. And, so often, we do the best work when we just don’t feel like it.

  18. Here’s another reason to write the most horrible blog post ever: Practice makes perfect.

    Though I like the approach of this post, I also don’t think people should become complacent about writing as well as they possibly can. But they shouldn’t become so obsessive, either, that they simply don’t write because they’re not happy with their skills.

    Listen up… Your skills get better by employing the level of skill you currently have at the current time!

    Nike really was correct when they said, “Just do it.”

  19. And of course there’s Beckett’s adage: “Fail again, fail better”.

  20. Thanks, Michelle. You have inspired me to sit down and write something really awful right now. I promise I will.

  21. This post was so timely! I don’t know how many blogs I have started over the years that just never went anywhere because instead of writing I was always reading. Then when it came time to write, I couldn’t get the words to sound like what I wanted so I just didn’t write.

    Now that I am a much more determined blogger, I am finding that what I take for granted sometime is just what others may need to hear.

    Thanks for this!

  22. I have put this in my blog folder and will get it out when I feel that “oh so familiar fear” to post. Thanks PJ Harris, LMP

  23. Fantastic, just write already! I love it! Very inspiring indeed.

  24. Great encouragement! The perfect kick in the pants every time doubt creeps in!

  25. @Matt Wolfe: “When people come to my blog now, they get the whole picture. They can see where I’ve started and how far I’ve come.” Yes! I use that same thought to get myself writing on my own (fairly new) blog often.

    @Peter Shine – Isn’t synchronicity great? And that’s a very thoughtful post you wrote!

    @ Marh H. Ruth – “Standing aside and letting the words have their way” – I **LOVE** that. Yes.

    @Bamboo Forest – “Pun Intended”? You’re my kinda person. :o) And I think you’re right about complacency–it doesn’t get you very far. But I know from personal experience that it’s often FEAR, not a sense of complacency, that keeps me from writing.

    If I can get past the fear and just start writing, I’m going to make sure I do my best. It’s a matter of allowing the words onto the page and trusting that they’re the best I’ve got at the moment.

    @ . . . well, everyone who is saying that they are finding this helpful–Thank you! This is very gratifying to me. :o)

  26. That’s it – I’m off to write a terrible post about something. Anything. Could be the twist I’m looking for. ‘The Day I Proposed Marriage to a 65 Year Old Grandmother of 10′ – that should do it.

    Here we go … not … great post!

  27. Hi Michelle, very inspirational post. I especially like number 2. I always thought succeeding coming of from a failure is much more satisfying and rewarding than succeeding without fail.

  28. the saying goes “don’t get it right, get it going” if you don’t get it going how are you ever gonna know if its right?

    never fear failure, you learn by failing,

    inspiring post, many thanks,

    Guy.

  29. Once of those classic posts that brings smile on your face and confidence in your mind.

  30. Great post Michelle. I’m a recovering perfectionist so this works for me! In fact, I’ve been practising being imperfect on purpose just to overcome my perfectionism. It’s working well.

    A strategy I use when I’m not “in the flow” is to just start writing even if I think what I’m writing is crap. Then I go back to it later, tweak it and hit publish. It still may not be the greatest post I’ve ever written but it’s better than not writing anything at all.

    I particularly liked “happy accidents”. If it weren’t for a happy accident, we wouldn’t have post-it notes. They were an experiment for a strong adhesive gone awry.

  31. Fantastic post, Michelle!

  32. This is very fresh advice. I liked #4, with coffee stains and all. How very true that statement is. A long time ago I read a hand-written note or letter is so much more personal than one which is typed. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before I read it. It seems so elementary-of course knowing your friend’s very hand had touched the paper and written the words awakens a deep, elemental human need to enjoy being close to other human beings.

    We all know how easy it is to insult someone online in a chat room or email, because the other person cannot hear our voice. In the same sense it is important for writers to be able to convey emotion and passion without the aid of sound and tone. The only way this can be done and sound sincere is for the writer to open up and pour some of themselves into whatever they create.

  33. I just loved this post! Especially, the people need you part. I completely agree with the following statement: “Right now, there are people searching for the posts that you’ve not yet written. They’re frustrated, they’re hurting, and the only way they are going to get relief is from the information inside your head.”

    The blog world has helped me with my own problems and I don’t feel so alone anymore. So, I completely agree that people need you. I need you!

  34. Julie Stuart :

    Love this–especially the part about your readers are out there waiting for you to write.

  35. I can really relate to the ‘Happy Accidents’. A collapsed coffee mug became my favourite funky milk jug ever and got used far more than it would have as a mug.

    Great analogy.

  36. One of the most comforting things is reading all the comments and realising how many people suffer the same issues …but do it anyway. Fabulous.
    I really liked the bit about people not liking perfection. I’m going to put it on my wall and look at it as I review my writing for the hundredth time. LOL Janet xx

  37. I saw the post title & thought – Damn – My last post must’ve been really crappy to have been singled out like THAT. Whew…

  38. A brilliant and truly inspiring post – can’t tell you how many of my blog posts wound up with the “delete” button pushed instead of the “publish” button, for the very fears of “but it’s not perfect” that you describe. Thanks for reminding me to get over myself and just WRITE!

  39. Printing this one out and plastering it all over my office. Love the Cheri Huber quote and its flip side. Well, I love everything here.

    I’m reminded of that story in Art & Fear (first heard about it in an interview with @pamslim and @nathanbowers) — where the ceramics students who focused on quantity, not quality, not only produced more work, but *better* work than the ones who focused on creating that single perfect piece.

    Off to write a horrible post…

  40. @Janet Helft – “One of the most comforting things is reading all the comments and realising how many people suffer the same issues …but do it anyway. Fabulous.”

    Yes!!

    In fact, so many people are leaving comments along the lines of, “Thanks, now I’m going to go write something horrible,” that now I’m thinking . . .

    If anyone wants to **really** do this (or has already), feel free to come on over to my blog. I’ll go write a little post right now inviting anyone who wants to participate. You can link to a “horrible” blog post you’ve written, or even write something “horrible” in the comments!

    And let’s have no judgment whatsoever. Just cheers for each other in our courage to write something–anything–and let it be seen publicly!

    Follow me on over if you’re so inspired. Because you’re all inspiring ME big-time with your comments here today! Thank you all so much!

  41. Awesome stuff, Michelle! I’ve recently written about the learning journey in blogging, saying “JUST DO IT – Blog as You Learn”. We share the same imperfection mindset when it comes to blogging. Thanks!

  42. Sandra McCarty :

    Your words have given me courage to write no matter how I feel. Thanks ever so much. I have question for you. What is the procedure for posting live links without using the web address?

  43. Good Post. Really liked the point about failing faster. Only when we fail, do we truly learn. What would have happened if we never took the training wheels off our bike? Take calculated risks but do them often and you will fail faster yet learn how to really succeed

  44. Love this! There’s nothing so liberating as giving yourself permission to stink on ice. :)

  45. Loved it!

    Can’t appreciate how much I needed this. Everytime I saty to write it takes me more that hours of coming with a right topic and hitting the keyboard. Then what upsets me is what I have written is so similar to the previous post. :( damn.

    Even the comment I am writing took some thinking to do :) and yes i think I have screwed up. :D

  46. Great Post!!
    I know I’m one of those people that doesn’t like failure as I always understood it as failure lead to someone being disappointed. However, this isn’t always the case and it is true you learn more from your mistakes than you would if you always got everything right.
    You’ve given people a great incentive to just get to it and write. Excellent.

  47. “I am sorry to say that I’m thinking of suing you for invasion of privacy. That’s only possible way you wrote this article – you got inside my head illegally! : )”

    EXACTLY!
    It is a very inspiring article Michelle

  48. Many thanks for this article, I haven’t yet started to write blog posts yet (and this is down to finding the “perfect” articles to write). So this is good advice which I have taken onboard.

    Regards
    Karl

  49. I think for a lot of bloggers starting out we’re all sitting here with a long list of advice from the blog gurus (some of it bad blog advice) and it’s pretty hard sometimes to fit your ideas into that straightjacket.

    As you say it’s much better to just get on with it – you’re never going to be saying anything different if you follow the crowd!

  50. First off, your post doesn’t live up to your title. Good stuff. I’ve just released an ebook full of tips for novelists and screenwriters, and while I realize some of them are familiar(with a new twist), I was thinking this one — which is there along with 100 others –was pretty original. Guess not. I like your treatment of it, too, right on the money.

    Another major blogging site invited me to guest post an entire piece on that ebook. As I wrote, I was thinking it was gonna be the worst post ever, since it was all about my agenda and delivered nothing of direct and immediate value to the reader. But I pounded on it and pounded on it, and it turned out pretty well, based on feedback, with something for the reader after all. So you’re right, ’tis better to fail nobly than to fail from lack of trying, since in the effort you’re likely to stumble upon the muse, who often bears unexpected gifts.

  51. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been putting off writing a lot of things on one of my blogs. You’ve given me inspiration to just say it.

    This line really spoke to me:
    “Will you tell them that you can’t help them because . . . well . . . you haven’t thought of the best way to write it yet?”

  52. Mark McQuillen :

    Thank you for posting your valuable insights! They are so true. I’m going to be quoting this blog to my friends and family. Maybe I’ll even quote it in my own blog if I ever write it. Thanks to your email, I may write it sooner than later. Appreciate it!

  53. I think that this blog post might not only help me in Blogging, but wrestling as well. On occasions when I have learned a new move and want to use it in a match but when the time comes and it’s my perfect chance to try it, I might chicken out.

    When I chicken out the fear of using it fortifies. That’s why just moving and keep working is the best thing. Keep the momentum going and you’ll be fine.

  54. Loved this post, Michelle! It spoke right to the heart of where I am, and gives me courage to move onward. Thanks so much.

  55. @Sandra McCarty – Hmm. I think you do need to post the actual web address in the link. Either that, or type in some anchor text and then link the web address to that. There may be a way to somehow redirect a link, but I don’t know how.

    But one brave soul has already posted a link to her blog on mine, so if you’re into it, the ice has been broken!

    @Deep Sherchan – “Even the comment I am writing took some thinking to do and yes i think I have screwed up.” LOL–No you didn’t, I promise. You just made *me* chuckle, anyway!

    @Hussein Nasser – Great, now I’ve got TWO lawsuits to contend with! :)

    @Wallpapers – Oh, I’d *love* to hear how it goes if you apply this advice to wrestling! Way to think outside the . . . blog post!

  56. Thanks, I needed that!

  57. Michelle, thanks for the chuckle and the “on the mark” advice! I can so relate. Most of us, when we’re having a conversation, don’t have a problem with speaking. So why is it when we are writing, we have a problem putting our thoughts into words? Thanks again for putting a great spin on getting a post out. :-)

  58. Michelle,
    I’ve written 3 posts smoothly after reading this post

    thanks again for the inspiration !

    Here is the latest.. as simple as 3 lines

    http://hnaser.blogspot.com/2009/08/power-force-x-distance-time.html

  59. Wow Michelle…this is the best post I’ve ever read on Copyblogger. I found this site only about 2 months ago (and have read many other superb articles) but this one is truly special.

    Like many others, I can easily relate to each one of your five points (especially happy accidents). I have some good friends who I know will benefit as well, so thanks for the excellent thoughts!

  60. Thanks for the encouragement – you’re so right. Try, then fail = an opportunity to learn something. Didn’t try = permanent failure.

  61. Thanks to this post, I’ve just written a post I’ve seen done before, in a different style to the rest of my blog.

    It’s great. I finally threw off the stiff, formal posts I’ve been making and had some fun. Thanks!

  62. I liked this post. Nobody’s writing will have a viral effect everytime. Alot of people try to reach that type of epic accomplishment and flop big time. You have to take your hits, stand back up, make some adjustments and go another round or two.

  63. I cannot believe that I am just now discovering this blog, and your brilliant advice. I give advice for a living, and there is nothing less fun than sitting there looking at a problem in your area of expertise… one that you would be able to answer any other day… sitting, looking, sitting looking… and nothing. Thanks for the sound advice.

  64. “you’ll fail faster”

    Lol like the majority of aspiring bloggers? :p
    Good post though, obviously you’ve hit on a point that people respond too to generate so much attention and comments.

    congrats

  65. Good article from left-field, I never thought about it that way. A lot of bloggers I subscribe to try to hard, you can tell they’ve spent hours researching what they’re blogging about. I think the best way to write is off the cuff :)

  66. Thank you, sometimes I feel like I should just give it up! I blog and post with determination to get this thing going, only to check back daily, no visitors, no comments, THIS HAS TO BE THE CASE WITH ALL MY POSTS! It has to be me!
    Thanks for letting me know it is ok, my day will come lol, Kathy

    I’m now following you on twitter, I may need some more encouragement,,,,

  67. I just came across your blog and found myself reading along and I thought I would leave a quick comment. I don’t know what to say honestly except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog and very good advice. I will be visiting this blog again.