Have you ever experienced the following?

  • You get a great idea for an os.me article
  • You write a draft (or create one in your head)
  • Something is missing from the article, you don’t quite know what
  • The article doesn’t see the light of the day.

This is something I experience all the time. Now, ruminating over ideas is not necessarily a bad thing – you might well get the inspiration either on a bright day or over time and transform it into a masterpiece. If I were a betting man, I would venture that ruminating on ideas in practice translates to procrastinating over it, which in turn would mean that this idea would never end up seeing the light of the day. 

Something remarkable happened, which temporarily took me out of the rumination cycle. The first edition of the os.me write challenge. The articles which I refrained from posting because I didn’t think they were ready yet, I managed to get them to a state that I considered acceptable, and posted them. And something beautiful happened. A lot of the articles got acclamations and praises. Different articles resonated with different people. Articles which hadn’t seen the light of the day yet made their way out the door, so to speak. After the write challenge, I managed to post only 6 articles, falling victim once again to the above loop. Thinking about all of this made me come up with a new technique that I call The 80% Alternative.

I define the 80% Alternative as: If you can get your article to a shape where you would grade it with a score of 80/100, you should post it. My reasoning is that if you can grade your article with a score of 80, then it is very likely that you

  • Are happy with the central idea that you want your article to convey
  • Believe that the article is reasonably organized
  • Are okay with the tone of the article
  • Are happy with the way you start and begin the article

Yes, some nice-looking edits and application of other techniques can make it a masterpiece. But if you’re able to convey your point/story articulately, then I would say mission accomplished. Also, I have observed that the os.me community cares more about the engagement factor and the point made more than grammar and style aspects. 

I should mention one caveat to look out for before applying The 80% Alternative. In your enthusiasm, you should take care not to grade your article with an 80/100 when you would otherwise objectively grade it with say 45/100. This said, the caveat is mostly theoretical, since in practice people (at least os.me authors) will likely grade themselves conservatively. 

There is one big advantage in adopting The 80% Alternative. Writing more good quality articles increases one’s writing capabilities automatically. I would opine that if you write 20 articles which pass The 80% Alternative muster, then the 21st article will receive a score of 82/100, by the sheer experience you’ve gained from the 20 articles. Of course, 20 is a random number I picked, each person’s mileage will vary, but you get the idea.

Experimental suggestions such as The 80% Alternative have to be taken with lots of grains of salt. If your goal is indeed to produce masterpieces of articles, you would do well to eschew this suggestion, and devote all your energies into your masterpiece. Or, you could take a middle-of-the-road approach that Derek Sivers suggests – write your articles, but don’t post it until you are convinced that it is a masterpiece. Sivers writes about how he posted one article everyday, but how he was not convinced whether they were of the highest quality (they appear brilliant to me for what it is worth). If your goal, however, is to share your views with the community (or the world) but an invisible force is standing between you and your article, The 80% Alternative may be a worthwhile try. 

Image Credit: clipart-library.com