Quality Writing Isn’t Real
At least, not for most of us.
Is it better to write for quantity or for quality? This is a big question, and there are answers all over.
Frankly, it’s not a real question. “Quality” is subjective. It always has been. Good writing is writing that people can relate to.
But if it’s written from your life or from experience, aren’t there people that will relate to it?
And if it’s fiction, not grounded in reality, doesn’t that mean people won’t relate to it?
Instead, good writing is work that people relate to and is seen by those people. All writing can be related to, assuming it has any sort of narrative, is written by a human, and is something a writer meant.
So if it clears those low bars, what makes it good?
Some good writing is “good” because of the person who wrote it.
Ryan Holiday’s brand will sell his next article, even if it’s sub-par for him.
Tim Ferriss will get more readers on his worst article than I will on my best.
Barack Obama could write a 150-word piece about his breakfast, and it would get more views than anything I’ve ever touched.
Some good writing is “good” because of the time it’s published.
This past weekend, I watched two films: M. Night Shyamalan’s Old and Bo Burnham’s Inside. If I wrote a review about both of them this week, my piece on Old would get more traction than my piece on Inside, because it’s more in the public eye right now.
Because of the timing of it.
Similarly, if I write a piece about the 2016 Presidential election next month, it’ll perform far worse than if I had written the same words and published to the same audience 5 years ago.
Some writing is “good” just because it is.
Poke around Medium for more than a week or two, and you’ll quickly find that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of writers who are trying to figure out what makes a piece good.
Here it is, summarized:
- Publish in a publication, but also self-publish.
- Write about your personal experiences, but also write about broad topics.
- Make it vulnerable, but also keep your privacy.
- Keep your pieces over 500 words, but also don’t top 450 or you’ll lose your readers.
- Write for the Medium algorithm, but also write for your readers.
See what’s going on?
Nobody knows anything.
There’s a certain bar to clear for writing. If it’s a sliding scale to 100, any writing below a 50 is bad writing. Writing between a 50 and an 80 is “pretty good” and anything above 80 is usually pretty popular.
But most of us sit in the 50 to 80 range, honestly.
This means that until we become better writers, the best way to succeed is to keep writing pieces in that range and hoping for the best.
Does that work?
If you ask the right writers on Medium, yes. If you ask others, no.
But the only thing we can control is the quantity of the work. Quality is subjective, until we pass a threshold most of us aren’t close to.
What’s the way to reach that threshold?
Get better. A lot better.
What’s the way to get better?
Write a lot of work. Put effort into it, edit, critique, and improve to the best of our abilities.
But mostly? Write. A lot.
The rest is up to the fates of the Medium algorithm.
Joel Sigrist is a writer, sports analyst, and media creator exploring several fields. Visit Joel’s website joelsigrist.com to find out more.