What If We Stopped Welcoming Every Would-be Writer?
What would the numbers look like if publishing wasn't this easy?
There’s a writing glut and the impact is hitting most of us. We know why it’s here. It’s here because too many people are writing to publish. It’s a veritable smorgasbord out there, and some of the choices are terrific. They’re amazing. But more of them are tepid to gawdawful.
Building a web page is miraculously easy. The simplest can be built in an hour. The more advanced may take a while, and may even require professional help, but the point is, anyone, including wannabe writers, can easy breezy do their thing on the Worldwide Web.
Platforms like Medium, Substack, Blogger, and WordPress let writers move in without resumes or credentials and even help them set up shop. They provide templates and instructions so their pages will look professional right from the start, no matter what kind of flotsam they drop in there as content.
And once they’ve built their own page or have joined someone else’s, they’ve joined the growing club of writers who blog. And blog and blog and blog and blog and blog and blog and blog…
Nobody knows for certain how many bloggers there are out there, but according to Luisa Zhou, an entrepreneurial influencer, there are an estimated 600 million blogs worldwide, with more than two billion blog posts published every year.
Zhou estimates there are nearly 32 million bloggers in America alone. Some 70 million blog posts are published every month on WordPress, and by 2028 the number of bloggers is expected to increase by as much as 40%.
That’s a lot of damn competition.
So, what if we made it so it wasn’t that easy for everyone to publish their writing? What if they had to work at it, had to actually apprentice, had to spend time among writers soaking in the talent and the drive, had to struggle to find the right words, had to keep at it until it was time?
In the days before the internet, when we either had to wait for someone’ s approval before our work saw the light of day or we had to print it and distribute it ourselves, the road ahead was clear—and humbling. We couldn’t just wish we were writers or call ourselves writers. We had to learn how to be writers. Nobody was going to take the time to read what we wrote until we learned to write something they would want to read. Not when there was so much good stuff to read.
But that was then. This is the 21st Century. Doors are open everywhere cable and satellites can reach, and anyone who wants a stage can have a stage. I mean anyone. They can publish anything. And I mean any thing. There are no limits, no boundaries to anything published online today. None.
There’s something to be said for that, and I admit I take full advantage. I regularly publish here and here on Substack and I revel in the freedom to write what I choose whenever I choose. I could push that ‘Continue’ button up at the top right now if I wanted to, and whatever I’d put down here so far would be out there in seconds, available to my subscribers as well as anyone who happened along.
Now multiply me by those millions doing the same thing all over the internet. (Don’t forget to include you.) Now consider where it puts us every time a would-be writer discovers that magic portal and takes up space just because they can. It moves us farther from the top, no matter how rabidly we think we deserve to be up there.
It happens every second of every minute of every hour, and apparently nobody cares. Including us.
In fact, we’ve been known to put on our happy faces and welcome them:
Hey! Hi! What’s that you say? You want to be a writer? Well, get on in here, you! You don’t know how to be a writer? No problem! Let me just drop this old thing I’ve been slaving over for days and we’ll get to work.
Oh. Wow. See where you used ‘they’re’? Sorry, honey, it should be ‘their’. Why? Well…
You’re not good at punctuation? You don’t know passive from active? You poor thing! Here, let me just…
What should you write about? Hmm…okay, how about you just sit yourself down and let’s make a list. I don’t know you at all but I’ll bet with enough time I can drag it out of you…
We do this because we remember what it was like and we want to pay it forward. We want to be that generous community welcoming one and all. And, really, if we know the answers, isn’t it mean to keep them to ourselves?
So here we are, fighting for our places in the sun, knowing the chances of getting noticed grow slimmer and slimmer because, with every casual, amateurish push of the ‘Publish’ button, the blogging world grows until we’re now among the multitudes.
Millions of us may deserve to be published, but—I’m just going to say it—it also holds that millions of us don’t.
Are you still with me?
I’m not backing away from giving all the help and comfort I can to anyone who comes to Writer Everlasting for the community and the conversation. But if I haven’t said it before I’ll say it now: I reserve my aid and comfort for the writers who show they mean it by having already worked their way through Writing 101.
I’m all for sharing new methods, new ideas, and any inspiring and encouraging nugget, but I’m not okay with rank wannabes opening up shop before they’ve done the grunt work. Have they spent the requisite hours spitting and polishing? No? Then they shouldn’t be here.
If they haven’t yet learned to write well enough to publish, as of this minute I’m done with encouraging them to publish.
So, wannabes, if you’re reading this—before you tell me how discouraged you’re feeling right now, how embarrassed you are because you see yourself here, let me stop you right there. I’m doing you a favor.
If I can convince you to learn to write before you learn to blog, I’ll be saving you the agony of going nowhere. The kind of writing you want to do is an honored craft. It can be an art. It’s an effort worth doing, and I’m here to tell you your greatest satisfaction is ahead of you if you’ll only get off your ass and master the first steps first.
But before you go, fair warning: If you think you’re already at the publishing stage but you’ve chosen to skip the learning part, we see you.
Every writer who has done the work will notice.
Just so you know.
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