Are Writers Too Focused on Output? Yes.

This song is unrelated to the blog post that follows it, but enjoy this song I’m currently obsessed with!

I’m not a fan of titles that have questions, so I answered the question in the headline! Boom. Problem solved.

Sometimes I feel I’m more of an observer of the writing world on Twitter than I am “of” that world. Actually, there’s no feel about it; it’s true. I keep up with what’s going on in the writing world of Twitter to the extent of following a fair number of writers and small online magazines, but I’m not “of” that world by belonging to any writing circles. I don’t publish frequently. Heck, I don’t even submit frequently. And much of my Twitter “content” has nothing to do with writing, as I Tweet often about pro wrestling, movies, politics and other items related to the blog or my life.

But something I’ve noticed from my small corner of the writing world on Twitter is that writers seem to be more concerned with output, which is to say, publication, than with quality. As we near December, you’ll start seeing people post their year-end lists of all the publications they’ve had in the calendar year 2021. Some will have quite the extensive list. You know what? Maybe it’s all stellar. I have no idea. Maybe they’re just that great at writing. I’m not trying to be negative or cynical, but well, I am skeptical!

Maybe I should put it a different way: The focus on publication numbers throughout the year (and even submissions taking into account rejections and acceptances) seems like an over-focus on output versus the quality of the writing. Is that perhaps a more fair way to put it? And it also feels like a self-perpetuating system, wherein writers feel that writerly peer pressure to “compete” with other people’s output, submission and publication numbers, so they, too, can have a shining year-end thread to boast about.

Again, maybe someone who has 45 publications in 2021, three of which are collections in actual print, have written 45 incredible pieces of writing and three incredible collections. Maybe! But I can’t help but be skeptical and you’re by all means fair to judge me as being negative and cynical.

Obviously, there’s scores of people throughout history who had ridiculous output in terms of letters, papers written, books written and so on. So, again, maybe.

This also isn’t to swing too far the other way, either. The quest for perfection can be its own kind of writer’s block. Nothing will ever feel quite “finished” and certainly not perfect prior to publication. At least, I don’t think so. But there has to be a happy medium between an over-focus on output and never … outputting due to perfection concerns.

Simply put, quality ought to matter more to us! I don’t think I’m being presumptuous in saying, most of us hate this idea that you have to write every day, every week or every month (or heck, every year!) to be a writer, and yet, we also feel this need to have high submission, publication and output numbers. It’s weird, right?

I should note, I often have a general idea that becomes the seed for a blog idea, but I think through the idea as I’m writing it and one thought manifest in writing this is that some may say, “Well, it’s usually flash fiction and/or poetry. We’re not talking about multiple full-length books.”

Well, point taken, although some people do have a lot of output in the books column, too!

I don’t know. My main thought is: If you’re a writer looking at these publication threads that are coming soon, don’t be distressed. If you have one publication this year and you think it’s the best thing you’ve written and are happy to see it in a publication, then there’s nothing wrong with your “one.” Someone isn’t a better writer than you because they have an additional zero or other digit next to that “one.” Heck, if that person who has written and published 50 pieces this year is happy with all 50 pieces, more power to them, too! I’m not trying to drag anyone down.

Measure yourself by the quality of your output rather than the output you put out.

What do you think about my random Thanksgiving Eve musing here?

Creative Commons photo.

2 thoughts

  1. Great topic Me personally, I feel that every writer has their path to discover. Quality is subjective, and some writers deem their first drafts good enough, while others wouldn’t be happy till they’ve reached double-digits of revision passes.

    For me, it’s the process that matters, and as long as the creator is satisfied with what they put out, then that’s all that matters. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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