Mediocrity is frowned upon, yet we are all mediocre.
I am a mediocre writer. I have not written anything that stands out. When I walk past, no one says, “Whoa! Here goes the writer of this year’s bestseller.”
I have failed at more things than I have succeeded at.
But I am still effective. I am still standing in the arena. Being mediocre is not being lazy or being dumb. Mediocrity is understanding that not everyone can be at the top. A vast majority of the people are in the middle of the bell curve, and many are by choice.
Mediocrity means I am giving time and attention to many other important things in my life than just writing. I might get better over the years. And even if I don’t, I still can be effective. I can learn to be a good marketeer and sell my work in innovative ways. I might become a good teacher and leave my mark by teaching others. Or I might learn to be more productive and generate more in less time.
I feel no shame in being mediocre. You too can excel in your mediocrity if you can cultivate these seven habits.
If there is one quality mediocre writers should pursue more than any other, it is to write consistently.
There is only one thing that separates the winners from losers; winners never give up. Even when nobody is reading your work, even when you don’t know what to write, even when you know your work is not up to the mark, if you keep on writing consistently, you will get better.
More than anything else, quantity leads to quality. Daily writing will make you better.
Persistence is not just a self-help cliche. Persistence is not just, “Keep going till you hit the finish line.” Persistence is to keep failing until you fail no more.
Don’t try to be original.
If you try to write an original article or a story, you will never get started. There are thousands of articles out there on the same topic. They still get read.
Yours will be different because it will have your voice, your emphasis, your story. That alone will make it original. Stop looking for something new, something unique. Instead, work on your style. It is not what story you tell; it is how you tell it that makes it unique. Many mediocre writers have become successful because of their style. James Altucher mediocre writer; he himself says so. It is his tongue-in-cheek style that gives him an edge over other writers.
Tim Urban of Wait But Why blog is another mediocre writer who is immensely successful. His uniqueness lies in the in-depth articles he writes on general topics. He didn’t know how to draw, so he started drawing stick figures to illustrate his point. His ability to make strong connections between the visuals and text makes his topics even more interesting to his audience.
Don’t compare with other writers.
What kills a mediocre writer prematurely is their tendency to compare their work with others. They know they fall short, and it discourages them to the point that they can’t write anymore. I know that first hand. It took me years to get over my tendency to compare myself with other writers.
Writing is a personal thing. It is just like talking, only on paper. Some people are great conversationalists, while others have to learn the craft. Rather than comparing your work with others, compare it with your previous year’s work. If it is better, you are improving. You might still not be at the level you want to be, but you will get there.
Write haiku. Tell a story using just dialogues. Write non-fiction using techniques of fiction. Try different forms of writing. Writing is creative, and creativity is making connections between different seemingly unrelated things.
In Franz Kafka’s best-known work, Metamorphosis, the main character wakes up one morning finds himself inexplicably transformed into a huge insect. Can you write the story of an insect who turns into a human? Or a computer? Or a tree?
Or would you rather prefer to write interactive stories where the reader can decide in which direction the main character will go and how the story will end differently based on choices the reader makes? Michael La Ronn, relatively unknown Science fiction and fantasy writer (of more than 50 novels) wrote his first novel as an interactive novel when no one had heard of interactive stories.
Mistakes are the best way to learn. Mistakes deepen our knowledge and help us see what we didn’t see before. Mistakes also show us new possibilities. Making mistakes is not a sign of ignorance or inefficient, instead it is a sign of being adventurous and courageous. So many discoveries can be attributed to mistakes.
Learn from others.
Effective mediocres are not afraid of learning from others. It is because their ego is not connected to their work. They dissect other writers’ work to understand what works for them and try to imitate them. Imitation is the highest form of praise. It is also the most effective way to learn. But they don’t just stop at imitating. They try to look for ways to improve what they have learned from others. Since they are not trying to prove themselves as masters or experts, they have the luxury of experimenting.
It is hard to pursue any activity which is not fun. On the other hand, if you have fun, you can learn effortlessly and achieve much more. A child soon becomes proficient with electronic devices and can work it without any training manual. Mediocre writers, like children, have fun with their writing. They know even Shakespeare didn’t think he was writing literature which will be read and analyzed hundreds of years after he was gone. He was writing plays to entertain the masses.
Do you feel you are a mediocre writer too? Does that make you feel ashamed? Please don’t. Understand you belong in the middle of the bell cover along with most of the others.
But you can stand out if you choose to adopt some (or all) of these habits:
- Be consistent.
- Don’t try to be original.
- Don’t compare yourself with other writers.
- Make mistakes.
- Learn from others.
- Have fun.