Danger: Overproduction Can Kill Your Writing
When the hustle turns into the hurt.
At some point, most writers are faced with a critical decision: when, if ever, do I pick up the pace and kick it into high gear. I don’t know many writers who haven’t fought the urge to furiously put pen to paper in larger volume.
A few months ago, I was feeling immense pressure to produce. I was starting to pick up a little traction with my writing. For the first time, one of my articles blew up. I was writing consistently. Still, it wasn’t much. The most I’ve ever produced in one month was in January of 2019 when I wrote 22 articles.
I had to push myself to get there. I’m not a big producer. But, I felt the need to outdo myself from the previous month. What a horrible idea.
After that, I hit writer’s block of epic magnitude. I was not in a good place.
I shut down. Nothing came out. Writing is an emotional proposition and I had nothing left in the tank.
Making everything worse was that I could feel myself lose traction with readers as I failed to produce anything. My writing wasn’t doing as well as I wanted. I was tired. But I kept trying to push anyway. The result? I wrote like crap.
The push to overproduce isn’t singular to me. I know so many writers that struggle with the writing spiral. It goes like this: Write. Make some money. Write more. Make more money. Write a lot. Make a lot of money.
It’s simple math. I get it. If you write twice as many articles as you did the month before, odds are, you’ll make twice as much money. Three times equals three times as much income. So on.
This, however, is flawed. It just doesn’t work this way because talent and creativity aren’t linear. We have to look at it differently. We need to twist the kaleidoscope.
Our writing isn’t a commodity but our readers are consumers
Prior to 1964, the Inglenook winery in Napa Valley made amazing wine from nearly 100 year old vines. Their motto was “Pride Over Profit.” That all went to pot in the late 60s when the owners saw that they could capitalize on the success of the wine and started to make more and more and more.
Profit sent pride right out the window. Quality suffered. You can have amazing Napa Valley Cabernet or you can have a whole lot of Napa Valley Cabernet. Rarely can you do both.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money from your creative pursuits. But, there will always be a sacrifice involved.
Quantity is driven by monetary desire. Quality is driven by the desire to connect. It is incredibly difficult to do both.
Don’t cheapen your brand by increasing your output to the point where you blow by Inglenook and turn right into Gallo. Your talent deserves better than to end up in a jug on some old lady’s pantry floor.
No one is going to forget about you
When I hit my wall, a friend told me to not only take a day off but to take three. Write nothing. I listened to him. I was a crazy person for 12 hours. The feedback loop stopped immediately but so did a lot of meaningless noise.
My greatest fear in taking a much needed break from writing was that people would lose interest. I thought all my readers would scatter to the wind and forget I existed.
I don’t think “out of sight, out of mind” applies to creative endeavors, though. If you need a break, your readers will be right there. Trust me. They are more loyal than you think. Unless you disrespect that loyalty…
Don’t overplay your “Roseanna”
I’m not even embarrassed to admit that Roseanna by Toto is my jam. I’m not kidding. You want to see me come unglued? Be anywhere nearby when that song comes on. I become my own music video.
Hearing it brings me joy. I look forward to it. Your writing should do the same thing for your readers. You want them to see your name and be exciting about its presence.
Imagine I heard Roseanna three times a day, every day. After a few days, it’s going to lose its luster. I’m going to turn the station in search of some Hall and Oates. Don’t send your readers to Hall and Oates.
If you continually overproduce, you run the very serious risk of saturating your own market and wearing readers out from seeing your name. They can become blind to you.
Whatever your motivation is for writing, be honest with yourself about it. If you don’t, you become an anxiety-ridden mess. The anxiety is trying to fit a round hole into a square peg. No one needs that. Not you. Not your readers.