This is a guest post from Jon Morrow.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You sit down in the computer for a few minutes, hoping to whip up a quick blog post. Then an idea hits you. It’s vague at first, but it has a certain sparkle of possibility. You start constructing a post, becoming more convinced with every word that you’re onto something.
The feeling grows and grows until your fingers are flying across the keyboard. The words are flowing, and you’re saying exactly what you want to say, exactly the way you want to say it. You bring the post to a close with an ending that you can only describe as, “Perfect,” and then pause to read what you’ve written.
A smile spreads across your face. It’s clever, original… brilliant. You only hesitate for a second before posting it to your blog. “I can’t wait to see what they say about that,” you think. You walk away from the computer, sure you’ve written a masterpiece.
A couple of hours pass and you come back to reread your post. As you scan through it, you feel a weight in the pit of your stomach. This post isn’t brilliant. It’s arrogant, disconnected, and desperate for attention.
“What was I thinking?” you ask yourself. And I’ll tell you: you weren’t thinking. You were drunk on your own words.
Writing Can Make You Feel Drunk
Master copywriters have long described good writing as hypnotic. It draws readers in, using its flow and rhythm to put people in a state of higher suggestibility, making it easier for you to sell them something.
It’s a dirty analogy, but it’s similar to getting them drunk. Each point you make is like pouring them another glass, slowly washing away their objections, tugging on their emotions, and leading them toward the sale without them even realizing it.
But it’s a two-way street.
When you’re writing, you can put yourself into the same state. Like a brewer drinking your own product, you can intoxicate yourself during the act of creation.
It’s happened to me lots of times. Fortunately though, I’ve learned to recognize it and walk away before posting something foolish to my blog. Here are the 7 warning signs that you should look for:
1. You Think the Post Is Brilliant
I’ve noticed that, whenever I finish a post and think it’s brilliant, there’s at least a 50% chance that it’s not. Frequently, it’s just pandering for attention, and I’ll regret posting it later.
2. You Think the Post Is Hilarious
Humor is dangerous. Not only do people have drastically different opinions on what’s funny, but there’s a fine line between making your readers laugh and offending them to a point where they unsubscribe.
The only way to know for sure is to run it by someone. Comedy writers work as a team for a reason. Sometimes, you’re being funny. Other times, you’re just being an ass.
3. You’re Actually Drunk (or High)
Alcohol and marijuana are the best friends of many a writer. We can argue all day about whether it really helps or not, but both can impair your judgment on whether you’ve written something worth publishing to the world. Be forewarned.
4. Your Heart Is Pounding
If your heart is pounding, then you’re definitely in some sort of heightened state, and it’s easy to move too fast. Whenever I drink lots of caffeine, for instance, my heartbeat and writing output both speed up, but the posts don’t make as much sense. Writing after watching a good movie or reading a powerful piece of writing can create the same effect.
5. You Can’t Wait to See How People React
Thoughts like, “I can’t wait to see what kinds of comments I get” and, “This should get some conversation going” are surefire indicators that you’ve written something risky. It could be bold, but it might just be brash.
6. Your Stomach Tightens up
Sometimes, you’re writing something that makes absolute sense, but you notice your stomach starting to tighten up. This is your subconscious trying to tell you that a part of you disagrees with what you are saying. Pay attention.
7. You Hesitate before Clicking “Post”
If your mouse hovers over the “Post” button, hesitating for a moment before putting it out for the world to see, then you’ve written something that you know is risky. You should probably hold off and figure out what’s bothering you about it.
Don’t Drink and Drive
If you’re going to drink, you’re eventually going to get drunk. Similarly, if you’re going to write, you’re eventually going to say something stupid. Nothing in the world can change it, and you might as well accept it.
You can, however, take responsibility for your words and avoid subjecting your readers to that stupidity. Just like you shouldn’t drive if you think there’s even a chance that you’re drunk, you shouldn’t post your writing if you think there’s even a chance that it’s not what you really want to say.
Instead, you should:
- Sober up – Walk away from the post for a few hours and give your internal editor a chance to wake up. He’ll tell you whether the post is good or not.
- Find a driver – If you can’t afford to wait, ask a friend to read the post and give you honest feedback. Regardless of how euphoric you are about it, trust their judgment.
Sometimes, the post really will be as good as you thought it was, but frequently, you’ll scrap it, or at least make some revisions. Either way, your writing will be better, and you’ll avoid the embarrassment of posting something you shouldn’t.