Are Writers Being Encouraged to Write Garbage?

Productivity is no substitute for quality when writing for the web. Or anywhere else.

Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

The web is chock-full of terrible writing; it’s no secret. The reasons for this vary, and aren’t important to the topic of this article. What is important, however, is that bad writing is actually being encouraged on our own platform.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s a ton of great writing on Medium — more than anyone could ever read in a lifetime, and increasing every day.

But there’s been a trend in the past year or so of writers being urged by other writers to “quit trying so hard”. This particular phrase isn’t unique to any one article but has been echoed in many offerings under various guises.

Write a Medium Post in Ten Minutes
You’re Just Not That Important on Medium
Why Curation Doesn’t Matter
The Value of Ignoring Writing Guidelines
Writing is Bad for Your Brain
Poetry is Dead on Medium
Don’t Overthink Your Writing

These aren’t the titles of specific articles but rather examples of the topics one can easily find in a quick scroll through #writing on this platform. And I find this trend disturbing.

While the web has more than proved its effectiveness in distributing and promoting different kinds of content, it suffers greatly from an overabundance of trash: advertising pop-ups, irrelevant commentary, ill-conceived articles and essays, self-indulgent streaming, and personally published humbug that just goes on and on…

The beauty of a platform like Medium is that, one hopes, by becoming a paying member we can bypass a lot of the junk that’s being offered elsewhere.

To see a number of Medium’s own writers discouraging thoughtful, graceful, well-edited writing is simply mindboggling.

What is the mission of such writers? Do they want to discourage new writers from publishing on Medium, perhaps decreasing (in their minds) future competition? Do they hope that other writers will turn out poor content so that their own will look better by comparison? Or maybe they are just bitter about their own mediocrity so they’re pouring it out on everybody else.

[M]ost of us can tell when we’ve read something valuable and well-written, as opposed to time-consuming fluff — or worse, pure vitriol.

Good writing is subjective, to a certain extent. Is your desire to be entertained? To learn something? To revel in beautiful prose? Maybe you just want to blow off some steam or justify your own beliefs with like-minded souls. Maybe you want your choices validated (parenting, lifestyle, food), or get clarification of some concept (ethics, happiness, success).

Maybe conventions such as spelling and punctuation don’t matter to you, only ideas. Maybe a writer’s ideas can’t be trusted if they can’t or won’t follow such conventions.

I’m not trying to dictate what equals “good writing” here or anywhere else. But most of us can tell when we’ve read something valuable and well-written, as opposed to time-consuming fluff — or worse, pure vitriol.

Good writing does matter. Not just on Medium — where, by the way, a lot of people are paying good money to read our content — but also out in the world. Let’s not let the trend of cutting corners for the sake of pushing out more content take over what is required to produce high-quality work.

I’m not a fast writer, far from it. I can’t write more than about 1200 words per day; for me, that equals one article. Lots of people write way more than that, some write less. 1200 words is about five pages, which is okay for an amateur but pretty slow for a pro.

…my productivity isn’t great, but I (hopefully) am turning out well-received, good quality work.

More to the point, it takes me approximately 4–5 hours to write those pages, including research, thinking, and editing. After that time period, my brain goes to mush and I have to stop for the day. So, my productivity isn’t great, but I (hopefully) am turning out well-received, good quality work.

I’m not saying that high-quality equals low productivity. I personally know a couple of writers on Medium who write and publish several excellent articles every day here. Their processes are obviously different from mine; frankly, I’d love to learn from them!

But there’s a difference between offering advice on writing for Medium, and actively discouraging other writers here.

We can’t realistically stop all negativity here or anywhere else. Human beings are genetically primed to look for the negative; it’s a survival mechanism. But we can certainly decide where to focus that negative bias, and it shouldn’t be disguised as helpful advice.

Writer, copy/line editor. Writing in science, society, environment, injustice, and mental health. Also personal essays. And some random weirdness.

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