Writing vs. Thinking About Writing

In my review of The Practice, I said that I was posting every day to focus myself on writing something worth posting every day. Shipping makes me think about a reader more than journaling would.

But, I am definitely not worrying too much about quality because I believe that that will come with time.

This story from Art & Fear is often cited to illustrate the power of quantity. I heard it first from Coding Horror in 2008, but here’s the earliest reference I could find:

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.

[…] 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.

When I think back to how I learned programming, I remember that I did it nearly every day and produced a lot of code. Most of it was unshippable, but I learned from making it and eventually learned to ship it too.

I believe in combining identities to build a new skill from a developed one, so applying my code writing attitude to writing text will help me keep going. I have seen the power of quantity work before.

I have also seen the effect of “theorizing about writing”. I have been trying to write more for years. I started this blog in 2003, and right now, just two months into 2021, I have more posts than any other single year.

Thinking about writing produced very little. Please, don’t wait eighteen years to learn this lesson.