Culmination content: Why it can’t all be good but how to go for it anyway
Lots of bloggers like to say content is king. They often accompany this statement with some advice that it’s better to wait to publish one amazing piece of content than five decent ones.
No one takes this advice.
When it comes down to it, everyone continues to publish instead of waiting the time it takes to develop groundbreaking content.
Still, every once in a while, someone publishes one of those posts. Among all the just decent ones, a good one breaks through, one that puts into words ideas that take years perhaps to develop, years that most bloggers don’t have the luxury of waiting between posts.
Most blogs have less than five of these kinds of posts, maybe 10 if the blog’s been around for a while. Even blogs I enjoy quite a bit, blogs that consistently have good posts, only have a few of these culmination posts.
Here are a few that come to mind:
- How to conduct your own annual review
- How to become an early riser
- How I became financially independent in five years
Note that culmination content doesn’t always have to be how-to stuff. That just happens to be a good one for blog posts.
But let’s move beyond blogs for a minute. Just about every creator has the opportunity to create or compile culmination content. Sometimes, it’s a book that stands far about the rest or provides the cornerstone for the rest of the books that author writes. Other times, it’s a crowning work of art or just a tremendously valuable decision under pressure.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo
- The championship winning shot in ’98 by Michael Jordan
The reason it’s so hard to take the common advice – “only publish epic stuff” – is that usually, not always but probably 93% of the time, you need all the mundane content in the middle to develop the pieces that stand out.
I’m not saying this to get everyone to pollute the universe with garbage. I guess I’m saying this more to reassure those of us who keep publishing regardless. You can’t be scared of missing.
The other reason I’m bringing this up now, though, is to consider what it takes to create more culmination content. Okay, sure, it can’t all be outstanding, but how can I get more of it to be excellent?
When I look around at the examples of those who produce the best at whatever they’re creating, I see a couple patterns.
First, their drafts still aren’t polished, but they approach their subjects differently than everyone else. They either see and feel nuances that others can’t or they’re able to translate what everyone else sees and feels into a form that few others can.
Digging into this further, it seems like they usually do this by creating some kind of environment, either physically, socially, or mentally (or, more often than not, a combination of all three), that’s different from the environments everyone else lives in. In other words, they don’t rely on themselves to muscle their way into creativity. They surround themselves with an atmosphere that promotes this work.
Second, they don’t try to make everything outstanding, but they look to create complete collections more often than everyone else. It’s not like they slack off – they just know that some content isn’t going to be epic, and that’s okay. They know the middle content can move them toward the culmination content. And then, most importantly, because this is the part that most of us forget, they purposely develop that middle content into culmination content.
It’s easy to get stuck on either extreme, either trying to always work on great stuff, discounting the mundane area completely, or always staying in the mundane area without developing toward anything more. The creators who produce the most culmination content value both sides. They use the daily work to build toward the big stuff. They look back at the daily work to compile their big stuff, and they look back often.
That’s how the good guys do it.
But it’s hard. It’s hard to constantly straddle that middle path. It’s hard not to feel writer’s block when you want something groundbreaking, and it’s hard not to slump into mediocrity when you’re doing the daily work. But that’s where the environment comes in. Without it, it probably is impossible to stay on task the right way. You have to have both, the right environment, which you can engineer, and the right balance between paths, which you can find if you know to look for it.