May 11


Seek Quantity, Not Quality

Another good email from Shawn Blanc’s newsletter “The Fight Spot”:

…as a creative person, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the end product. You have this idea — this clever, beautiful, amazing thing you see in your mind. You want to make that. Anything less is unacceptable.

But, when you’re there, in the mire of your own work, it usually feels like anything but quality. In fact, it usually feels like crap. (Just being honest.)

It is in those moments where I have to remember that quantity leads to quality.

Don’t believe that you must chose between creating a lot of something, or creating one thing that is a masterpiece. The former leads to the latter.

Yes, I want to be a fantastic writer. Yes, I want to write engaging, clever, and quotable works. Yes, I want my articles to be insightful and memorable. But I’ll never reach it if I quit while things seem poor. I cannot allow myself to only write when it feels inspired and en route to greatness.

In an article in The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell cited psychologist Dean Simonton and brings up Simonton’s argument that quantity does, in fact, lead to quality:

The psychologist Dean Simonton argues that this fecundity is often at the heart of what distinguishes the truly gifted. The difference between Bach and his forgotten peers isn’t necessarily that he had a better ration of hits to misses. The difference is that the mediocre might have a dozen ideas, while Bach, in his lifetime, created more than a thousand full-fledged musical compositions. A genius is a genius, Simonton maintains, because he can put together such a staggering number of insights, ideas, theories, and observations, and unexpected connections that he almost inevitably ends up with something great. “Quality,” Simonton writes, is “a probabilistic function of quantity.”


Shawn blanc

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  • ‘Quality is a probabilistic function of quantity.” THIS. It’s not exactly like the two are mutually exclusive – that to be good something must be rare or that if there is a lot of it it must be rubbish. I think that quote is especially true of writing.

    • Yup. Take Terry Prattchett, for example. Wrote a ton of books, and each one’s marvellous.

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