Francois-Marie Arouet, more famously known by his nom de plume, Voltaire, was undoubtedly one of France’s most influential writers. His prominent works and teachings not only inspired those living in his time, but also paved the way for revolutionary ideas that reshaped the modern world.
Aside from his celebrated works of fiction, such as Candide and the Lettres philosophiques, Voltaire was also a revered philosopher who championed reason, social progress, enlightenment, and tolerance.
Behind Churchill, Shakespeare, and Wilde, Voltaire is perhaps one of the most quoted people to have ever lived, and you can apply his valuable insights to numerous aspects of your life, including the art of writing copy that entices and draws in readers.
So, with that in mind, continue reading to discover three of Voltaire’s astute quotes that can teach you a thing or two about creating captivating content.
1. “Perfect is the enemy of good”
When you’re writing content, it’s easy to become entangled in the pursuit of perfection. It often seems that a minor tweak here and a slight rephrasing there could result in an impeccable piece of work.
However, Voltaire astutely reminds us that “Perfect is the enemy of good”, highlighting the fact that the quest for perfection is often a futile one. It can often backfire and harm the overall quality of your work, or you could hamper your productivity.
Indeed, if you constantly rework and edit your writing, you could ultimately end up overcomplicating the narrative, ruining the tone, or even adding unnecessary jargon.
It’s important to remember that perfectionism often results in diminishing returns. Economist Vilfredo Pareto explained this phenomenon numerically with the aptly named “Pareto Principle”, or the “80-20 rule”, as it’s often called.
Pareto stated that it often takes 20% of your effort to complete 80% of the task at hand. Then, it takes 80% effort to complete the last 20% of your task, suggesting that the more time you spend perfecting a piece of writing, the less value you’re actually adding.
To avoid this perfectionist pitfall, it’s essential to allocate your efforts wisely and balance your time between drafting and editing according to your own style of writing. This could help you prevent getting lost in relatively unimportant tasks while you attempt to perfect your piece of work.
2. “You can never correct your work well until you have forgotten it”
After you’ve finished pouring your heart and soul into a piece of writing, it’s common to develop a deep attachment to your new creation. This emotional connection can often blind you to any faults, or even lead to burnout if you’ve spent a considerable amount of time on it.
It’s important to remember that this challenge of refining your writing isn’t always due to carelessness. Sometimes, your expectation of what a piece of work should look and read like can mean that your brain gets ahead of itself and skips over errors.
Similarly, you could miss simple mistakes during the editing process if you’ve spent hours, or even days, writing it.
Voltaire’s wise solution is simple yet powerful: you need to “forget it” before you can correct your writing effectively.
Simply stepping away from your computer and taking a break to make a cup of tea, go for a walk, or even start a new project, can help you clear your mind and hone your attention when it comes to refining your work.
If possible, you may even want to sleep on the piece of writing for the night and review it the next day, as this fresh set of eyes could help you identify mistakes you previously missed.
3. “The progress of rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error”
Voltaire’s witty and humorous observation that likens the flow of rivers to human error highlights the fact that no one is immune to mistakes. In fact, even when you take all the steps necessary to prevent errors, failure can occur due to factors outside your control.
This is especially the case when you’re writing content, as there are numerous variables that could negatively affect the quality of your copy.
Even when you attempt to step out of your comfort zone and try your hand at a fresh writing style to prevent your content from becoming stale, this experimentation can come with a dose of failure. Rather than avoiding any attempts to broaden your writing horizon, it’s worth embracing this trial and error instead.
While it is wise to minimise errors wherever possible, it’s important to remember that when they do occur, you should view them as opportunities for growth rather than as a source of discouragement.
Understandably, you may be eager to get things right on your first attempt. Still, if this instant success doesn’t materialise, it’s worth viewing these errors and failures as stepping stones on your journey to becoming a better writer.
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