Should you really strive to eliminate writing mediocrity?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss writing mediocrity, inspired by a New York Times piece by Tim Wu….

Have you ever feared that your writing is mediocre? And, by “feared” I mean: have you ever let your concerns about your writing quality derail your writing plans?

I think this derailment occurs to many non-professional writers and it makes me very sad. There is more to writing than excellence or even publication. There is also the profound self-knowledge and self-expression we can achieve when we put our fingers to the keyboard (or pen to paper).

I was reflecting on the positive value of writing mediocrity recently after reading a recent opinion piece by Tim Wu (pictured above), an American lawyer, professor at Columbia Law School, and contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. Headlined, “In Praise of Mediocrity,” the post argues that the pursuit of excellence has infiltrated and corrupted the world of leisure.

Here is part of what Wu had to say:

If you’re a jogger, it is no longer enough to cruise around the block; you’re training for the next marathon. If you’re a painter, you are no longer passing a pleasant afternoon, just you, your watercolors and your water lilies; you are trying to land a gallery show or at least garner a respectable social media following. When your identity is linked to your hobby — you’re a yogi, a surfer, a rock climber — you’d better be good at it, or else who are you? Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.

If you have lost yourself in the struggle to become a successful writer, read Wu’s essay and remind yourself that writing can also be a hobby. It’s something you can do because it’s fun and because it gives you satisfaction. It doesn’t need to be about your next book deal.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Oct. 8/18.

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