Quality from Quantity?

Improve your craft through action over perfection!

Video accompaniment

In the argument of quantity vs quality, I’ve seen a shift over to the quantity side and I agree with a lot of their arguments. What I’ve seen said lately is not that quality isn’t valuable, but that the mindset that comes from producing a few high quality things isn’t conducive to effective learning. It leads to a lot of wasted time polishing potential bad foundations, when you could move on and try again. Rather, you should produce a lot so that you get quality through quantity.

Photo by Ian McGrory on Unsplash

It reminds me of a behind-the scenes-interview with a National Geographic photographer. Wildlife photography is notoriously difficult because you have no control over your subjects, but they managed to get about 16 absolutely stunning images for the article. Perfect light, composition, action, storytelling. How did they manage this? Did they have a bunch of fancy equipment? Are they incredibly lucky or skilled? Well… yes, they did have the equipment and skill and the opportunity, but the reason they got those 16 perfect shots is they chose the absolute cream of the crop from a pool of something like 4000. Quality out of quantity. If they waited and only took 16 of what they thought were perfect images, they would have missed out on all the best moments.

Now coming at it from an artist’s point of view that analogy isn’t entirely 1:1, as in art you do have control over your production, but the idea is to give yourself the opportunity to produce those gems by sheer dint of volume.

Photo by Oshin Khandelwal on Unsplash

The other analogy that’s often brought up is the story of a university professor teaching a beginner pottery class. They split the class into 2 groups, one group tasked with making the best clay pot they could, and the other with making as many clay pots as possible, graded by weight. The first group spent most of their time researching, planning and thinking and produced a couple of pots in the last week, while the other immediately jumped on the wheel and started churning out pots. In the end, it turned out the group marked on quantity also had the best pots among them. Their practice led them to improve their ability very quickly, and having no expectations of quality left them more freedom to experiment. They made a lot of bad pots too, but it didn’t matter because those still contributed to the weight. Every finished pot was a success in its own way. And sometimes, everything clicked and they made the best pots of the lot.

The best results come out of a focus on process, working on your ability rather than the final product. Improvement from iteration. Progress from practice.

Now, just making lots of things doesn’t necessarily guarantee improvement, you’re not going to get better making the same mistakes over and over. You have to be actively trying to shore up your weak points, double down on your strengths and experiment with new ideas, but as long as there’s that drive you’ll figure it out.

So get out there, and Produce! Make stuff, even if it’s bad, even if it gets no attention, even if no one understands it. It’s all a step on the road, a step on the journey taking you that one step closer to your destination. Just keep walking, and who knows what gems you might discover. I can’t wait to see it.



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