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.
If you hate get rich quick schemes, penny pinching, and advice without substance, you might just love Jon’s blog, On Moneymaking. Subscribe here.
Reader Comments (90)
This post was great–I really like how it used a “metaphor” to bring important information about being drunk on your words. I can attest that when I started a blog awhile back, I thought most of my posts were “perfect,” but I never got any comments and never had any subscribers, so I ended up dropping the blog. Now I’m thinking about starting a new blog, but this time, I plan on drinking less so I don’t end up vomiting something lame onto my blog.
hilary shantz says
This one hit home! It happens to me when I try to do humor, I did one post I thought was so funny that I giggled the whole time I wrote it. Fortunately I ran it by my husband who didn’t have the same reaction. I ended up putting it in a file and may use it in a different setting. My blog is real-estate-related, so one has to watch what gets broadcasted to the world!
Hilary Shantz, Oakville Ontario
Jessica Satterfield says
I think this concept applies to more than just blogs … Haven’t we all sent an e-mail that we wished we had waited on and edited first? It’s not only that you say things you don’t want to say. I’ve had many instances where — an hour or so after I’ve sent the e-mail — I have an epiphany of how a point could have been illustrated much more powerfully. It pays to have some patience, even when you’re busy.
Douglas Karr says
Would that be ‘blunking’? ‘BUI’?
I’ve never done it, but perhaps my writing would be MORE entertaining if I was! Truth be told, I do find myself reading, re-reading and deleting many of the posts that I’ve not published.
How brilliant – and horrific – this info is! I found myself reading down the list, cringing away from each point. You’ve definitely captured the world of the writer here. The only problem is, if you take away all of our stimuli – coffee, good movies, alcohol, great writing, drugs of choice – honestly, what’s left to get me out of bed in the morning?
Gyutae Park says
Haha, it’s a little bit of a stretch but a pretty unique analogy. Now I have to stock my blog with some more drunken writing. Cheers!
Janice C Cartier says
Good post, fellow TS ‘er…wonder how Hunter S. and Kerouac would respond? Willie Morris and Hemmingway???? Perhaps that’s what a good editor does…and a good trash basket…I find the delete key a much used partner… thanks for your, as usual, top notch practical and usable insights. All best, Jan
Allena T says
Funny! I agree with the partying while writing– often just leads to sloppy typos. However, I reserve the right to write drunk in my personal/diary blog ;}
Mark Dykeman says
Fair warning about “drunkenness” – it’s always good to have a driver for a sober second thought.
So many posts on writing are devoted to overcoming writers block, and being ones own worst critic – “it’s probably not as bad as you think”. This one seems to have the opposite message – “better not publish that, it’s probably not as good as you think”. If a writer can’t rely on their instincts to tell them when they’ve written something great, what should they rely on? Other people’s approval?
James Chartrand - JCM Enterprises says
According to this post, I am an alcoholic. One in denial, I might add.
On the other hand, I’ve found that while a bottle of wine usually makes me sick the next day, a glass every second night is quite nice. So I definitely try to write as if I’m only slightly inebriated and not piss drunk. Everything is good in moderation, as they say.
However, I’ll never look at blogging quite the same way again, so thanks for the post and the warnings. Cheers!
Barry Welford says
You get drunk even faster if you compose your blog posts with something like Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. The words can really take off.
A Blog about Nothing says
I can’t begin to express how true this rings with me. I’m still learning the skill of setting things aside before I run off and publish them. Even 10-15 minutes can make a huge difference in what looks good and what is actually good material worthy of posting.
Thank you for the insight I had never looked at it from that angle before.
I have to admit that this one hit home for me as well. This is an excellent post and a must read for anyone that is considering blogging.
Ruth Greenwood says
As a songwriter who blogs, this hits home for both areas!! In the writer’s clubs of Nashville, there is often a shudder when someone says they’re going to sing something they wrote THAT DAY. Occasionally it’s magical, but mostly not. Yes, a few pros who’ve been writing every day, all day, for decades, are used to getting it right by sundown, so almost everything they write is at least good, if not inspired. But for anyone who is hasn’t written in that exact form (either a song or blog-type short essays) on a professional basis, full-time, for decades, the odds of both the art and craft of that piece being masterful without time and eyes to review it…are slim. At minimum, the punctuation and spelling (or the equivalent for a songwriter) may stink without a little review. But it’s so TEMPTING to get it out there. Don’t we love our brand-new babies? Or is it the immediate “Hey, Mom, look at me!” at work?
Michael Martine says
What are you talking about? I’m fine… where are my keys…
Tyler Gresham says
Would that be ‘blunking’? ‘BUI’?”
Well said, my friend. 😉
I hadn’t thought about it this way before, although it makes me think back, and realize, I’ve done it too! Sending emails, or blogging, or just communication online, period, and then regretted having done it. Going back later and reading them, and you get a *DOH* moment, you know, “They must think I’m a total jerk now”
Good blog post, 🙂
God this is right on.
It reminds me of an article I read yesterday about “SUI” — Shopping Under the Influence. I immediately thought of the previous Saturday when I spent an entire evening watching the football game and writing a post. As you said, I thought it was hilarious and inspired.
It wasn’t. And, yes, I was drunk (like I said, I was watching the football game too).
Well, I used to drink at night while writing and all that. But I have given that up after I seen how it really affected mny blog.
Besides the booze drunkenness, I totally agree with the word drunkeness as well. This is a masterpiece you have written here and I bet all of us felt the way you have described in this post.
Sonia Simone says
Ha, love this post. Very scary and true.
Unfortunately, I think everything I write is hilarious so I can’t use that one.
Over the years I’ve developed pretty good radar for my own stuff. There’s a kind of mental click and I know I can hit send. But that takes a really, really long time to develop. (I am ever so old.)
Stephen Hopson says
This is absolutely a brillant post, I found myself nodding several times. I even cracked a wicked grin while going through it.
Yes sir, I can identify with many of the items you posted here. While I’m grateful for my writing skills, I’ve occasionally found myself drunk, so to speak, while my fingers fly across the keyboard, wondering at the same time what kind of comments I’ll get and then find myself checking email notifications to see if anyone had anything to say. Sometimes it borders on the obssession.
Guilty as charged! But I do enjoy it very much. And from the responses I do get, I think they do too.
Great post! Keep it up. 🙂
Barbara Rozgonyi says
Great post! Thanks for the reminder to be humble and aware – of both the reader and the consequences.
Dustin Brewer says
I agree with everyone else that this post was excellent and very close to home. I find myself frequently writing posts that I think are wonderful and don’t seem to get the attention that they deserve. This may very well be the problem I have, I rarely set aside enough time to take the time.
Good points. It might be worth adding that you shouldn’t be TOO concerned about writing a risky post.
Sometimes your more edgy or controversial ideas are the ones that get the most attention and spark the best discussions. Of course, sometimes they just make you look dumb 🙂
Dr. Pete says
Wait, this doesn’t apply to people like me who actually ARE brilliant and hilarious, right? 🙂
I couldn’t agree more; if I fly through a post, convinced of my own brilliance, odds are pretty good I’ve just cranked out some semi-coherent drivel. I think the problem comes, at least for me, with occasionally confusing good writing with having a point. Sometimes, I’ll come up with a great way of saying something or fantastic metaphor, but not really think through the idea. Better a decently stated great idea than brilliantly worded crap.
This reminds me of that figurine from the TV.
(Insert favorite alcohol beverage here) and blogging (in this case) do not mix.
Brian Clark says
Everyone, I forgot to add Jon’s byline to this post. Go check out On Moneymaking and subscribe, or he’ll never write for Copyblogger again, and I can’t have that. 🙂
Jon Morrow says
That’s right 🙂
Celine Jalbert says
Any wonder I get writer’ s block?
Hamilton and Stoney Creek Area Real Estate says
Great post Jon.
#1 and #7 hit home with me. Not in blogging so much, as I am setting up my blog for the new year, but in direct mail to potential clients.
I’ll now make sure I set my ‘brilliant writing’ aside and then come back later and see if it still sparkles as it did when I left it 🙂
I loved this post. The blogger’s equivalent of the drunken phone call … definitely something to avoid, even if I’d never quite thought of it this way before (grin).
I have been there, done that, and continue to do so on a pretty regular basis.
If nothing else, this post was comforting. Nice to know I’m not the only one!
I you get drunk on the words you’re writing, pray to your muse she never allows you to get sober.
Copy editors, publishers and agents need to be sober.
Artists can’t afford that luxury
Albert | UrbanMonk.Net says
A very timely post for me, especially since I’m experimenting with trying a few different writing styles. Thanks!
This post makes sense.
Latarsha Lytle says
Thanks for your insight.
At the end of the day, our writing has to be able to give our readers something that they can sink their teeth into.
Again…thanks for sharing.
Thank you for making my think before I project word vomit.
Case in point, I should have read over my previous comment before posting it. Some people just never learn. Obviously the “my” should have been “me.” Experience must teach me more on the ways of writing.
I’ve just recently posted a new article in which I’ve used some of the copy techniques and others from books I have. For the last few weeks I’ve really been unhappy with the quality of my articles and searched for ways to improve it. Which is how I found this site.
And of course, I really wasn’t happy with my latest article but felt the need to publish something so my blog doesn’t remain stagnant (it’s the one about Cloverfield and ‘The Secret’ in case you’re interested). As I’ve said I tried to make the metaphor but ended up using Cloverfield for the intro can closing. I cringe slightly when I read the parts, but I know it’s a learning process.
My apprehension could be because I just wasn’t used to writing using these techniques and if I wait until I’m used to it or comfortable with it, then I might never post anything. I’d be trapped by one of the fears you described previously. So, I figure, I’m just going to allow myself room for imperfection and just continue to try and improve my writing.
Great post. Food for thought.
Sheesh… my first sentence should have been ‘I’ve just recently posted a new article in which I’ve used some of the copy techniques I’ve learn from here and from another book on copy I have. ‘
Sam Reese says
Copyblogger: ( 7 Warning signs that You’re Drunk on Your Own Words)
Wonderful insights for everyone to consider before they post their most precious “words of wisdom”.
Sometimes these words can be off the mark — something we often don’t realize until after we’ve posted them.
After I saw my “clever” words on a blog I giddily started some time ago, I decided not to blog until I could set my ideas down clearly. I am now in training. I enter handwritten ideas, and remarks about life and consciousness in hardback journals. I have thirty journals now. This has not only shown me the importance of revision, I also find I have accumulated worthwhile material to write about. By the way, the espresso’s I throw down in Starbucks don’t interfere with anything since I always revise at home away from the influence.
Nice work 🙂
Maybe it’s because my fingers don’t fly across the keyboard—they limp; or that my typing is so bad that I have to spell check twice (emails included); or that my writing is one of the few things I’m really conceited about, so rushing isn’t my thing, but I’ve never experienced the stuff you list.
What does happen is that I go back to read something I wrote days, months or even years ago and I’m totally amazed at how well it holds up and just how good some of it is.
Damn, I’m lucky.
Penguin Pete says
Hmmm, well, this seems like an odd post, particularly for CopyBlogger. I guess I’m in the minority, because this didn’t ring a lot of familiar bells with me.
Except #5 (guilty grin) but then a big part of my motivation is to shake people out of a rut, confront them with new ideas and new ways of looking at things. Sometimes the best part of a post is the interesting debates in the comments. I learn a lot, and get new perspectives from commenters in return.
But I just wanted to offer, for those who suffer from “shoot from the hip” blogging: one sure-fire way to avoid this is to never publish immediately.
I never type a post in the blog interface; I always use an external editor and save it to my hard drive first. There, it joins a pool of idea fragments floating around. I tinker with them and polish them until they’re ready to be shown to the world. If it’s a timely topic, I’ll put it up within a day, but some posts lag away for months before I finish them.
This way, there’s a disconnect between jotting down the ideas when the inspiration hits and my publishing schedule. I also have a little archive of ‘anytime’ posts I can grab out when I’m too busy to blog. It balances out nicely, and going over a post two and three times lets you really make it shine and be something special.
Mohsin | Blogging Bits says
Boy – that sounds familiar!
Excellent job Jon. You really had me drunk while I read your post.
Wayne Liew says
I used to have some of those crazy feelings as described above but I am sure that I am not drunk (I am too young to be drunk).
Sometimes, after we got a post appearing on the front page of a social media site like Digg or Stumble Upon, we might have the feeling that everything we write thereafter will get the same good results.
The feeling will disappear however, when we slowly realized that everything we wrote after that was mere rubbish. Thus, it is still OK to realized after a few minutes coming back to your desk as described in your post.
jen_chan, writer MemberSpeed.com says
In this case, it’s don’t drink and write. I actually find the way you put it, “getting drunk on your own words,” pretty accurate. I’ve had this experience many times before. And yes, I’ve had more than a few of those symptoms, too! 🙂 Especially, the number where you described that the writer would be eager to get comments and get reactions… All so familiar! 🙂
Great post and very true. For the very reasons you cite, all of my blog posts that are “clever” or that are on touchy subjects are at least a week old. I have a document where I write blog posts in advance. Right now there are 10 or 12 posts sitting in there gestating. Almost every day I go in there and fine-tune each post and eventually I post it. Some of my posts are on sensitive current events and those age for even longer.
A recipe post or a quite citation of a news article link does not get this treatment, but everything else has to sit and “outgas” for a while before posting.
What you’ve described is the creative flow. Your “symptoms” are how I know I’m writing something worth publishing. set aside my posts to edit the next day. When I get the feeling like you listed, I usually change almost nothing. It’s when I don’t feel like that, I eliminate entire paragraphs, rewrite a lot, and still can’t figure out what I don’t like about the post.
This may apply well to business, but it’s 100% backwards for people with a goal of entertaining as top priority.
Matt Ambrose says
Psychologists believe that the reason you don’t write so well after a cup of coffee is because it agitates your beta brain waves and heightens anxiety. The ideal mode to be in is alpha, when you’re relaxed and your creativity is at its peak. This might also explain why some people like to grease their mental cogs with a glass of wine.
Jon Morrow says
Cool , Matt. I didn’t know that, but it makes sense.
What a fantastic post! Like most of the other commenters, this one definitely hits home! Thank you for the great read! 🙂
lawton chiles says
Arrogance can be the downfall of many a man (or woman)
As Bob Dylan said…”When the Foot Of Pride comes down, there’s no goin’ back”.
It’s a great post. I experienced much of it in my own writing. Thanks for the good post!
Dale Fildes says
Oh, so true. I’ve started so many different blogs only to delete them later – being drunk on my words has to be the answer. I now use the DRAFT feature of my email more and the send less. They should share this info in composition classes.
Drunk is good, but don’t over-drunk yourself. or you will end up in a hospital
George Potts says
I’ve never done that. ; )
John – a sobering thought for the day. ;o) Thanks for the great post.
Brian, I thought this getting drunk on my own words and later on regretting posting it only happens to me. Everything you said rings so true. Thanks for the warning signs and tips on how to sober up. Brilliant!
Now I hope I’d never regret posting this comment. Haha! Cheers!
I have done a few post that sounded great as I was posting them. Then later the next day I site down to review what i have written and either have to rewrite or delete it, so I know what you are talking about.
Jeff Chavez says
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Thanks again for the useful information!
While reading this post I said to myself “Oh! wait, I think I know this guy” Then reading more, I found out that I’m the one that I’m talking about. I was that way before till I read this post. Thank You.
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