Unposted Writings

For every 25 posts I publish here on the blog there is probably one that I write and never post. Looking at my Drafts folder (where all of these posts begin their lives, and wait their turn until they are scheduled) I see two of these unposted writings sitting there, waiting to be posted, and knowing they likely never make it to the front page.

The current contents of my drafts folder.

The first of these is a post called “What to Say to WETA?” The second is the post titled “Show Off How Smart You Are.” I had actually gotten so far as to schedule these posts for this week, when I decided to pull them and replace them with other posts (this very piece you are reading is one of the replacements).

Why not publish the posts?

There are generally two reasons that I write a post and then decide not to publish it:

  1. The piece just isn’t very good.
  2. Something about the tone of the piece bothers me.

Before a post goes into the world, there is really only one person who can judge whether it is good enough to be posted and that is me. This blog is a one-man operation. I play the role of writer, editor, and marketing department all by myself. And sometimes I write something and think, nope, that just isn’t very good. It used to be that I’d post the bad stuff anyway, but over time I realized that I wanted to show the very best of what I write. So I’ve gotten better at weeding out the bad stuff.

The bad stuff, incidentally, doesn’t always even make it into the draft folder. Sometime I’ll have an idea, write a paragraph or two, and realize it is no good then and there. I’ll just delete it instead of completing it. Why waste the time? Other times, I’ll complete a draft, but upon re-reading it, I’ll decide that it is a second-rate effort, or that someone else has said the same thing much better than I have. In these instances, I’ll take a deep breath, and let the piece die in the drafts folder.

Less frequently, I’ll write something that I like, and that I think is pretty good, but that I don’t think has the right tone, or that I think comes off sounding to haughty, too whiny, too petty, or too sarcastic for no good reason. These posts often make it to the scheduled stage, and after a night or two of consideration, I’ll pull them. The posts on “What to Say to WETA?” and “Show Off How Smart You Are” are examples of this variety.

In the first example, I am complaining about receiving too many requests for money from a charitable organization that actually does a lot of good for people. I knew as I was writing it that it fell into the category of too whiny and too petty, but I wrote it anyway, and I even scheduled it. Indeed, it was set to be published today. At night, as I drifted toward sleep, I began to worry that that post would do more harm than good. I mean, so what if the charity seems to constantly ask me for money? Does that really hurt anyone? The post was more sarcastic than my usual, and upon reflection, it seemed completely unwarranted. So I pulled it. That was fine. It wasn’t a wasted effort. Indeed, writing the post was very much like writing an angry letter, one in which I stuff into an envelope, stick on a stamp–and then toss into a desk drawer, knowing I’ll never mail it. Just writing the letter burned through whatever emotional frustration it held on me. Having written it, I felt much better.

In the second example, “Show Off How Smart You Are,” I went off on a pet peeve of mine, equating trivia with being smart. I’d seen an ad for a trivia contest, part of which read “Show off how smart you are…” and that pressed some buttons of mine. I wrote a post filleting the ad in rather caustic terms. But once again, my cooler head prevailed. People enjoy these contests, and who am I to say what is “smart” and what isn’t. This was an example of people having fun, and I was raining on their parade. So I pulled that post as well.

In the early years of the blog, I was not so selective about the quality or tone of my posts. But over the last 7 or 8 years, I’ve fallen more and more into this process where I write posts as drafts, schedule them, and then consider them before they are actually published. More often than not, I don’t give a post a second thought once it is written. But when I do, that’s when my radar goes up, and I start to ask myself why I wrote the post and what I hope to gain by publishing it. If I feel that the primary reason for the post is not particularly good, I’ll pull it.

This is why you are reading about unposted writings today, instead of me ranting about a harmless charity that maybe puts the touch on me a little too much.

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on WordPress.com


  1. It sounds like you’re actually deciding based on a slightly different criteria than “Is it good?” To me, “good” and “bad” would refer to the quality of the writing. But what you’re talking about here is more, does this belong in my private diary or public? Will posting it unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings or reveal a part of my persona I’d like to keep private? You could decide not to post a technically excellent piece for these reasons.

    I wholeheartedly agree to can them (and I censor myself in similar ways) but sometimes writers can turn out excellent work that also reveals them as quite insufferable!

    1. Melanie, I think it is a little of both, although admittedly, I more frequently trunk pieces that I think would do more harm than good. (This wasn’t always the case. A search back through to my earlier posts probably reveals some of these types of pieces.) Publicly venting for a good reason is one thing. Publicly venting as a form of entertainment is something else. I think some of the recent pieces fell into that latter category. There are times, however, when I’ve written something that I look at and think, “Wow, I just phoned that one in, didn’t I?” In those cases, I’ll either attempt a complete rewrite, or trunk the thing.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.