It’s always a good time to reevaluate your habits and goals, especially if you think bad writing is holding you back from achieving your creative dreams and business goals.
Here’s what this reevaluation sometimes looks like for me:
- What should I stop doing (aka, What’s not working?)
- Is there a process I could optimize?
- Do I need to add anything to my routine?
And while you’re assessing which writing habits you’d like to incorporate or remove from your routine, I have an eye-opener that will help you approach these changes with more ease.
What does bad writing look like?
Let me introduce you to … the Necessary Mess.
If you’re not an editor, the articles you read online are the final versions of those articles.
That’s obvious, yes, but we often don’t stop to think about all of the versions of a piece of content that existed before it was published.
It might look like it was created with minimal effort.
If only it were that straightforward.
So, today I want to explore what makes a good writer while you’re in Draft Mode, because your draft often looks like bad writing. This examination will highlight the nonsensical nature of most drafts.
The first version of an article typically just needs to translate an idea into some words.
Bad writing example
Here’s a sample of my bad writing.
My handwriting is sloppy.
There’s no logical order.
It’s simply what I needed to start writing my thoughts … and it eventually led to the post you’re reading right now.
If you look closely at the image above (please don’t), you’ll see that the term “Necessary Mess” was originally “ugly draft.” Ultimately, “Necessary Mess” felt more precise.
4 bad writing pillars to form your Necessary Mess
Your version of the Necessary Mess might look completely different from mine. It could be a bulleted list or a collection of digital notes.
Regardless of the format, embracing it helps relieve some of the tension of getting started on a project.
Check out these four pillars of a Necessary Mess that you can incorporate into your writing practice.
1. Write what’s easy
If you’re trying to achieve the quality of another author’s “highlight reel” when you write your first draft, you’re likely going to be disappointed and frustrated with your “behind the scenes.”
Instead, write what feels easy, even if your blog post ideas aren’t fully formed.
When I’m not quite sure what I want to communicate, writing anything helps me relax.
My go-to tactic for a while has been to type the word “something” over and over again in a digital document. I eventually get tired of looking at the word “something” and what I really want to write about emerges.
I also recommend writing out the lyrics to a song you like or inventing a funny poem. Those tangents that jump-start your process can be powerful tips for beginner writers.
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2. Schedule enough time
You can afford to spend time “writing what’s easy” when you don’t have a tight deadline.
If you don’t give yourself enough time to write, you’re going to feel pressure to write the Most Eloquent Words in Your Brain right away.
But prolific writers know that “decent,” “weird,” or “good enough” often precede the “best” versions of their content.
They need the time to explore “decent,” “weird,” and “good enough” in order to arrive at “best.”
3. Accept ridiculous mistakes
This is the “Mess” part of “Necessary Mess.”
- Glaring and not-so-glaring typos
- Awkward phrases
- Improper grammar
- Spelling errors
- Confusing punctuation
Approaching your topic in a thoughtful way almost requires a certain fervor that harbors making blogging mistakes.
So don’t sweat it if you accidentally write something ridiculous like: “All beets are off.”
4. Sculpt your art
As I mentioned before, you’re not going to publish the Necessary Mess. It’s a tool that helps you uncover the main point of your article.
After you know exactly what you want to communicate, you remove any confusing parts that look like bad writing.
You work through a Necessary Mess until someone else can clearly understand and benefit from it … until it becomes a Nectarous Message.
And as you publish and promote your Nectarous Messages over time, you’ll build an audience of people who want to hear your writing voice and what you have to say.
Go all in to turn bad writing into great writing
Here’s an example of what bad writing can become once you perform all of the steps above to craft it into great writing.
If you’re a fan of the Karate Kid movies, I’m sure you’ve been enjoying all of the seasons of Cobra Kai on Netflix, but probably not as much as I have … and that’s by design.
In addition to the many callbacks to the original films, the characters also mention the names of restaurants and other businesses in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley.
Anyone familiar with the area will get a kick out of these Easter eggs (if you will), and Cobra Kai’s writers went all in to hook the people who would love to hear modern-day valley references.
I even recommended the TV series to a friend who would appreciate them.
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the highest compliments a writer can receive.
It only occurs naturally, though, if you add those special qualities to your writing that form deep bonds with your readers. That’s how you make your content intriguing and incredibly memorable.
But there’s another lesson here
What about the viewers who’ve never heard of il Tramezzino, Urth Caffé, or SUGARFISH?
The show’s writers aren’t excluding anyone, because Easter eggs aren’t distracting.
When a pro uses descriptive language, the reader will be able to understand her message, even if they don’t get her specific reference.
Your details won’t take readers out of your created reality, and if they want to know more about a certain proper noun or synecdoche, they can look it up.
This is different from the misstep of making a reader work harder because your writing is sloppy.
Here, the reader can simply ignore your parlance without consequence or follow his desire to learn and grow when he reads.
The quick rule of thumb to remember is:
Bad writing confuses your reader. Great writing grabs attention and piques curiosity.
Brian once tweeted advice that shows how this concept also works on social media:
Readers are responsible for how they respond, just like you’re responsible for your choices as a writer who keeps an ideal reader in mind.
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