Why Formulaic Writing Can Be Disastrous for Skill-building

Asmita Karanje

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Do not confuse the guidance around enhancing skill with the advice around selling it.

When I had started blogging, this social experiment that I did motivated me and I wanted to share the benefits of it. It was that simple. I wanted to share my experience with the world. But as I started writing more, I realized there’s a ton of stuff I need to learn about writing — ‘how to write,’ ‘what to write’ and ‘when to write.’

At first, I loved it. It seemed like expert advice, and I should implement them. But slowly, my medium feed was full of ‘how-to’ articles, and that feeling of excitement changed into overwhelm. I wanted to read and absorb and implement them all. I slowly started losing focus on my ideas, content, and creativity.

My focus had now shifted to ‘what works on this platform’ ‘if I write on this topic, will it generate views’ ‘does this meet the publication guidelines’ ‘is this looking pretty’ and trust me all of that was weighing me down.

Formulaic writing is scanning a platform to fit into a set pattern or standard that would provide you the desired outcome. It leads to writing what sells than writing what is significant to you as a writer. I love to write about productivity and politics equally, but both are entirely distinct categories. While the platform algorithm promotes one type over the other, should these factors should influence my writing, or should I focus solely on the content of my article? Well, a few may argue what’s the point of putting your blood and sweat in an article that would be read by less than ten people.

Let’s try to understand the purpose of writing. If you are writing to earn quick bucks, stop reading this article. It isn’t for you. If you are in it for the long haul, continue reading it. For all the newbie writers who are in it to explore their writing potential, don’t be afraid to fail a million times. You aren’t failing; you are sharpening your ax each time you fall. When you have read a dozen articles on writing and what works, stop there and then. You have enough knowledge at a fundamental level; everything else is now a combination of several factors outside your control. So don’t even try to control it. As Donal Knuth puts it in his famous book, The Art of Computer Programming,

“Premature optimization is the root of all evil.”

While I understand this psychology to read an article titled, ‘How I made $xxxx on an article?’ But I don’t get it why do you want to box your writing into a set pattern — because then no one is reading your article(unique to you), they are reading what I’d call — formulaic writing.

There is a formula that we are after. What works for someone might not work for someone else. What works today might not work tomorrow. What will you do then?

I remember the Australian Open Grand Final match this year in Feb 2020 between Djokovic and Thiem. The odds were in favor of Thiem that day, and had he won; it would have been a significant upset in a Tennis Grand slam. Thiem had won 2 out of the first three sets, and he had everything going for him that day. In fact, in the third set, Djokovich was behind Thiem by four matches. That’s a big difference for someone who has won the championship eight times in the last 12 years. It was a challenging moment for him. But a winner is the one who has played under all situations, right? He didn’t let stress get the better of him. He instead used it to his advantage and turned the game in the next two sets. He not only won the last two sets, but he won the entire tournament (yet again.)

Be that champion. Hone your skills. It will help overcome any challenges in life. Running behind formulas and strategies is myopic. It might work in the short-run, but it won’t help sustain the game in the long run.

Chasing formulas won’t help in improving the art. Do not confuse the guidance around enhancing skill with the advice around selling art. Invest time wisely. It’s limited — use it to learn the tricks of the trade and then explore your creativity.

Don’t be limited by a pattern or formula put out by others. It’s their opinion of what works best. I am not saying there is no merit to it — some may even find success following those exact steps, but that isn’t what you are looking for when you want to up your ante and not game the system.

“Old formulas don’t give new solutions.”
― Israelmore Ayivor, Become a Better You

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Thinker, self-experimenter, and a newbie writer. I write about personal growth, socio-political issues, and career advice.

Dallas, TX
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