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Article Marketing Tip of the Week: Is Failure The Best Writing Teacher?
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Does a focus on quality or quantity produce the highest quality art?

I was reading about an interesting experiment chronicled in the book Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.

A ceramics teacher divided his class into two groups–a group that focused on quantity and a group that focused on quality.

The quantity group was to be graded on the sheer number of pots that they created–something like 50 lbs of pots for an “A”, 40 lbs for a “B”, etc.

The quality group only needed to create one pot–but it had better be top-notch.

Quick–before you read any further, I have a couple questions for you:

  • Which group do you think had working conditions that were more conducive to producing the best pots?
  • Which group would you have preferred to be in?

Is Failure The Best Teacher?

I was a bit surprised by the outcome of this experiment.

As it turns out, the best quality pots came from the group that was focused on quantity.

Why in the world would that be?

Apparently, the group that was intensely focused on quality spent a lot of time theorizing how to create the best pot, but their theorizing did not impact the execution of their art. They created fewer pots and so had fewer chances to learn from their mistakes.

The group that was solely focused on producing a great quantity of pots did just that–they produced a lot of pots. In doing so, they gained more experience. They were able to learn from their failures, and each time they created a new pot, they got a little bit better.

Thinking of things from that perspective, I can understand why the best pots from the class came from the quantity group.

Balancing Quantity with Quality

When I first heard about the terms of the experiment, I felt sorry for the folks who had to be in the quantity group.

You see, I am a quality-oriented person. I would rather produce one masterpiece than a million pieces of junk.

I like quality. I prefer quality. I don’t think this experiment is denigrating a quest for quality.

I think the point is that sometimes some of us (myself included) can forget how important merely writing a steady stream of articles can be in our evolution as writers.

Let’s learn from this…

Some of you need to read this piece and take it to heart.

Perfectionists: If you have been agonizing over your articles and taking several days to write one that is up to your standards, then try a different strategy. Make a concentrated effort to write more articles (I’m talking about 8 articles a month per website if you are submitting automatically).

It is completely feasible to write a well written 400-800 word article on a topic within your niche in one day. Set that as your initial goal–one article a day for a week.

Keep in mind: Even with writing a higher quantity of articles, correct grammar and spelling are still crucial.

Big time producers: Others of you may need to scale back your quantity and focus more on quality.

It’s important to point out that producing a great quantity of anything only helps you improve if you learn from your mistakes.

If you are already writing a lot of articles, recognize your mistakes and make improvements. Take the time necessary to write a well-written article.

If you are submitting automatically and are producing radically more than 8 articles a month, I suggest you scale back your quantity and focus more on quality.

Remember, submitting a ton of articles automatically can be detrimental to your SEO. Scale things back and focus more on quality.

What do you take from this experiment?

Do you think that failure is the best teacher?

How good are you at learning from your writing mistakes?


Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Photo Credit:

Pottery Factory by usr.c

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9 Responses to “Article Marketing Tip of the Week: Is Failure The Best Writing Teacher?”

  1. Paul Profitt says:

    I always try to focus on quality over quantity. But I am also aware that none of my articles are ever truly perfect. I write on topics that I know something about, and I hope that readers of my articles gain something
    from them.

  2. Though I would prefer quality there is much to be said for quantity that has passed a quality inspection in R.(eturn) O.(n) I.(nvestment) in quick turnover in sales, especially in these tough economic times.

    My preference still lies with a well placed qualified group for ingenuity!


    Eddie MacIsaac

  3. I strive to Learn all that I can at academic writing skill levels to increase my knowledge base and better myself in life experience.

    I do learn from the mistakes that I make in article writing as this only adds to the betterment of any who are affected by knowing which is the coreallation to the right way to correct your articles written content.

    In return I will only make a better life contribution for many others if I can add something to their lives through knowledge in my article writing abilities.

    This is the reason that I strive to increase the Higher Learning of all who may come accross any article that I publish. If I can learn all that I can from my writing mistakes and increase the knowledge of others, I will have bettered myself in life.


    Eddie MacIsaac

  4. Like spelling “across” as accross in the last comment!

  5. I love to write the greatest quality article possible but I do realize that writing is the key.The more I write the better I get.
    Writing on my own blog gives me tremendous practice, therefore when I write guest posts I am better prepared.
    I do believe that practice makes prefect. Babe Ruth is a great example as are so many others.
    Thanks for the questions.
    Thee Quest For Perfect health

  6. Pete says:

    My view is that if you are doing something that doesn’t work – do the opposite and test again. If you are doing something that works – do it more times.

    Quantity or quality depends on who is doing the measuring of quality. How does a bad writer tell it’s bad? If they knew would they not have written better?

    If you are taking a long time to write what you consider to be a mastepiece, but it doesn’t get listed, then maybe you need to learn more. Maybe your writing is perfect but your choice and use of keywords is poor.

    Too often I see an article where you can’t tell the main keyword: it should be in the title, the first 100 characters or so of the body and in the final paragraph. Then I generally add it about once more every 200 words.

    Here’s a question: what should be the frequency of 5 word long-tail keyword in comparison to a two-word keyword in a 600 word article?

    Google looks at semantic relevance (so-called LSI) in establishing relevance of a web page to a search term. Where does that fit in?

    Once you can answer questions like that with understanding then you can start worrying about ‘quality’ of writing.

  7. Steve Shaw says:

    Hi Pete,

    Yes, there are different elements of article quality, and the more advanced you are the more factors you can look at.

    Article quality is not entirely subjective though–there are definite measures of article quality.

    1 – The primary measure of article quality is correct spelling and grammar. This is just a basic requirement for all articles. You need to be able to write with proper spelling and grammar before becoming accomplished in any other area of article writing.

    You had asked:

    How does a bad writer tell it’s bad? If they knew would they not have written better?

    If you are a “bad writer” (lacking fundamental writing skills), then you will need someone with excellent English skills to be your teacher.

    The students in the study had a teacher who could tell them when they were going wrong and how to make improvements.

    As students become more advanced, then they are more likely to be able to notice deficiencies in their work and make corrections. A beginner, on the other hand, needs someone to help them notice mistakes and make corrections.

    2 – Following that, the goal would be to improve your article topics. Your goal is always to write on article topics that are useful to your target readers. A great way to find topics that are useful to your readers is to do keyword research. Long tail keyword phrases (3+ words long) often make great topics for articles.

    Frequency of keyword usage: Use the word in your title (in a natural sounding and grammatically correct way) and in the first paragraph of your article. If you cannot fit your keyword phrase into the first paragraph of your article in a natural sounding way, then get it in as close to the beginning of your article as possible.

    Ideally the keyword phrase would not slap your reader in the face–the phrase should just be a natural part of the article.

    3- Next, I would focus on improving your effectiveness as a teacher in your article. An article can have correct grammar and spelling and be on an interesting topic to your readers, but if the information is not taught well, then the article is of limited use to your readers.

    The article organization (the logic and simplicity of your argument) is fertile ground for making improvements to your article quality.

    4 -Then work on general writing improvements–better titles, intros, conclusions, reader friendliness, and word choice (saying exactly what you want to say using as few words as possible).

    There are many areas where a writer may improve, but you have to start at the beginning. You work on first things first–writing fundamentals of grammar and spelling–and then move on from there.

    Once you advance beyond the basics, you may be working on improving multiple elements at once. This process never ends. Whether you have been article marketing for 10 years or 10 days, you should still be working to improve your writing quality.

    You had asked:

    Google looks at semantic relevance (so-called LSI) in establishing relevance of a web page to a search term. Where does that fit in?

    The article should be on the long tail keyword–the goal is for the article to rank highly for the long tail keyword term.

    The keyword phrase that is hyperlinked in the resource box is your main keyword phrase–the goal is to have your website associated with that keyword term and for your website to rank higher and higher for that term.

    The main keyword term in the HTML resource box gets its relevance from the article–that is why the article needs to be on a topic related to your general niche.

    When a writer gets to the point where he is targeting keyword terms in his article and resource box appropriately, there will naturally be keyword relevance between the article, the resource box, and the website.

    If a writer is a newbie and is not yet sure what keywords are or how to use them, then that is an area where he can improve his writing. He can work on learning to use keywords appropriately in his articles and resource boxes.

  8. BradenBurton says:

    I would prefer quality. i am also aware that none of my articles are ever truly perfect.

  9. meb says:

    @Paul Profitt:
    just a question Paul, wouldn’t it be gramatically correct if you were to say none of my articles IS truly perfect rather than none of my articles are …? just wondering?

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