“Quality over Quantity.”
We’ve all heard that phrase before. And for good reason – it’s better to have one sturdy, reliable grocery bag, for example, than five bags that rip open as soon as you fill them.
But the problem with this phrase is that it assumes that quantity and quality are mutually exclusive – as if you’re choices are only 1.) Produce a lot of mediocre things or 2.) Produce one good thing.
What if that perception was wrong? What if over-preparation, in lieu of trying to produce and publish, actually creates poor quality work?
What if quantity, combined with deliberate practice, leads to quality? This may be closer to the truth.
In one experiment, researchers asked a group to make the best piece of pottery that they could produce. They asked another group to produce as many pieces of pottery that they could produce.
Do you know which group ended up with the best results? The group that made more. While the first group focused on preparation –analyzing, studying and pontificating about how to make a good piece- the second group was able to practice more, therefore ending up with the best piece through trial and error.
Learning, reading, studying, preparation and planning can take you far – but they’re not the only way to learn. At some point, we have to move forward and actually practice.
Picasso produced 50,000 works of art in his lifetime. How many of them are extremely well-known? Definitely not 50,000. But he produced as many of possible, and naturally, improved and struck gold with many of them while others faded into obscurity.
And he’s not the only artist to take this approach.
“On average, creative geniuses aren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers, they simply produce a greater volume of work which gives them more variation and a higher chance of originality.”
In creative work, whether that’s writing, product design, being an artist, or anything else – there’s a level of subjectivity. What we think is good may not resonate with an audience – or like Van Gogh, it doesn’t resonate during our lifetime but it does much later. It can be devastating to pour years into a project only to release it and hear crickets, and it’s nearly impossible to anticipate what an audience will like.
The best way to get around that?
Make it, publish it, and move on to making another thing.
The benefits are three-fold:
1.) You’ll increase the chance of making something that will resonate
2.) Because your creations will vary, you’ll improve your own processes and quality through practice, and
3.) You’ll spare yourself from the tortured artist angst.
Focus on being prolific.
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