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The Only Way to Better Is Through More

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I came across this short parable about art-making, originally from the book Art and Fear, on Ben Thompson’s always excellent blog, Stratechery:

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.

Reading this, I worried, of course, that I spend too much time in the “quality” group 🙂

8 thoughts on “The Only Way to Better Is Through More

  1. I enjoyed this piece, I needed this piece. When I started to finally learn about writing forms and techniques, I sacrificed the daily practice of writing, and writing time became so deferent. It definitely makes me think about the famous “10000 hours” theory

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  2. While this piece supports the idea of practice makes perfect, The Art of Slow Writing (Louise DeSalvo), however, would seem to favor you on the quality side of the argument. The key in the end is not the number of pots produced or words written, but the quality of the work. DeSalvo believes a goal of writing X number of words per day is not only far less important than perfecting a paragraph, but that the quantity goal impedes the achievement of quality writing.

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  3. Nice post. Thanks for sharing! I believe producing a lot leads to better quality, whatever the art being produced. This is not to say that the artist shouldn’t approach each project with care, dedication and attention to detail. But ultimately, we must complete and release our work to learn from it and improve upon it.

    For more conservative types like myself, it’s easy to get caught up in a perfection trap that prevents us from completing and releasing our work at all. Better to take the risk, release your work, receive the feedback, and produce more art. Ultimately, this approach will lead to better quality and quantity. I read that Isaac Asimov woke up every day at the crack of dawn and wrote until noon. Every day! He wrote over 500 books in his lifetime, including several acclaimed bestsellers. It seems to me an important key to his success was quantity of production.

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