Always Do Something

In their book Art and Fear, Bayles and Orland discuss the principle of quantity over quality. The relevant bit is quoted on the webpage, and goes like this:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay. ”

Right now, I’m struggling through a first draft. I HATE first drafts with a passion that sometimes makes me wonder why I’m doing this whole writing thing. First drafts SUCK because they are never, ever, EVER perfect – and I’m a perfectionist.

When we’re stuck in the quagmire of an imperfect first draft – or caught in the death grips of editing, for those of you that hate that bit of the process – it’s so easy to lose sight of what we love about writing. It’s so easy to fall back into the default position – everything I write is terrible, I’m no good at this, I think I’ll quit.

Don’t. Quit.

Every word you write, every sentence you think, every scene you bash your head against the desk over – everything you read over later and wonder what you were on at the time… It’s Something. It’s Practice. You’re Learning.

Quantity. To improve, you must practice. And practice means volume.

Go. Write. Do something.

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