Just Say “No” to Mediocre Content

Irritated Man With Hands Out In Stop Gesture

I usually poke around websites that belong to new clients in order to learn more about them and to get a feel for voice and tone. If there is a blog, I click on with one eye closed. Occasionally I find smart and creative posts in residence. Knowing that a skilled writer has preceded me, I feel inspired to rise to the challenge and produce equally good material.

More often than not, the existing content is dreck. Some writers might take that as a supreme challenge:

Yahoo! Let me show them how awesome my writing is so they’ll never want to work with another freelancer again!

I just feel deflated, demotivated, and very sad.

Perhaps my experience is akin to a master home builder who, upon seeing the shoddy workmanship used to construct a friend’s home, is crestfallen and even a bit angry at the so-called professional responsible for this subpar creation. Or maybe a five-star pastry chef who takes one bite of a dry, flavorless piece of cake and spits it in her napkin.

Now that everyone who engages in any type of industry or service is encouraged to get a blog, you need a blog!! — and Lord knows there is no shortage of content writer jobs out there — mediocrity abounds.

I always wonder about the writers. Are they illiterate, uncreative, or just lazy? Did a first grade teacher plant the seed for this bad fruit years ago? “Why, you have a natural flair for writing, little George!”

Or maybe they can really write and are loyal members of the churn and burn word count factory. Perhaps they took Anne Lammot’s advice to heart in her inspirational Bird by Bird and just plant their rears in the writing chair to knock out that sh*tty first draft. But they should have kept reading after that sentence ended.

I feel conflicted about the business professionals who allow this inferior and uninspired writing to represent them speak for their enterprises. Are words really that insignificant?

A few years back, when I had no idea about the vast potential awaiting me in the land of content writer jobs, an employer charged me with the task of finding such a writer. I explored a few of the most popular content sites and ordered articles. One woman was an obvious pro and delivered stellar work on time with great communication. Another site delivered boilerplate SEO-soaked pabulum.

My employer was a very savvy and shrewd, fairly decent writer himself, more interested in self-promotion than quality work or personal integrity. I was shocked when he accepted the poor writing, slapped his byline on it, and threw it on his blog. While I don’t have a problem ghostwriting for others, I can’t imagine putting my name to someone else’s writing.

Is this snobbery on my part because I value the written and spoken word so highly? For me, writing is an art  — a mystical, transcendent sacrament in the best moments — and I take true joy in polishing and perfecting each word I choose and every phrase I construct. (Which does not mean I am error-proof. Ask my editors!)

Ah well…to each her own. I’m with Huxley. I want to be pierced:

Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.
― Aldous Huxley


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