Agree on the core message, I’ve written as much before, but the devil is in the detail. First of all, holding Hardy and Oppong up as “giants” misses the mark. Popularity does not equal good. Would you tell Yo Yo Ma that he just needs to practice more if he wants more listeners than Ariana Grande? Would you have told Fitzgerald to practice more if he wanted to sell more books than Dan Brown?

From my own perspective, my most popular piece of writing got me over a million reads and a substantial amount of money. It’s nowhere near what I’d consider my best piece of writing. It just happened to be the right content in the right place at the right time. Some of my best writing has struggled to hit 100 reads.

Metrics tell only a very small part of the story. The first mover on any platform has an asymmetrical advantage, regardless of how good they are, because it’s a blue ocean opportunity. There are plenty of writers on here in the self help space who can boast huge numbers and that they’ve written for Inc and other publications because they were here before the floodgates opened. I’ve read their stuff, and it’s garbage. There’s no substance to it, it’s just easy, mindless reading.

Their numbers don’t mean that their work is good, it means that the audience here has an appetite for it. It’s no different to music, where someone like Britney Spears can make far more money than a virtuoso like Yo Yo Ma or Vanessa Mae, because the public appetite for music leans towards pop music. It doesn’t make it better.

That’s an incredibly long winded way of saying don’t confuse popularity with skill at a craft. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but they don’t automatically go together either.

And yes, people need to spend far more time getting better.



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Pete Williams

Author, occasional ranter. Athlete and soldier in a previous life. 15x Top Writer on my mom’s fridge.