Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You sit down at your desk, hoping to write up a quick blog post. Then an idea hits you. It’s vague at first, but you recognize the distinct voice of possibility: this could be really good. So you start writing 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.
You’re really punching those damn keys.
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 just written.
A smile spreads across your face. It’s clever, original… brilliant. Not even a second of hesitation before publishing it on 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. Uhm… 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.
Verbal narcissism, or getting drunk on your own words
Good writing is hypnotic. It draws readers in, using its flow and rhythm to change one’s state.
But it’s a two-way street.
When you’re writing, you can put yourself into the same state. You can get drunk on your own 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 your 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 begging for attention, and I’ll regret posting it later.
2. You think your 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
Alcohol 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.
5. You can’t wait to see how your readers will 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 publishing your post
If you hesitate, then you’ve written something that you know is risky. You should probably hold off and figure out what’s bothering you about it.
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.
- 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.