5/22/2020 0 Comments
Have you heard the story about the pots?
The story about the pots is an oft-cited anecdote from the book Art & Fear, and I decided to write about it today because it’s one of those parables that, as an writer, you absolutely must hear at least once. I probably think about it five or six times a week.
It goes like this: A ceramics teacher divides her class into two groups. She tells one group of students that it will be graded solely on the quantity of pots they produce, and the other group that it will be graded solely on quality. The pots produced by the quantity group would be weighed after the exercise. Folks in the quality group just had to make one perfect pot.
Do you see what’s coming?
The best pots came from the quantity group. While they were churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes — the quality group was suffering from analysis paralysis. You probably know it: freezing under pressure.
The irony is that when we focus on quantity, what we wind up with is quality—albeit, buried under a mountain of stuff we end up discarding. Sure, there’s a lot we have to throw out. But who cares, if you’ve gotten what you set out to create?
In a few weeks I’m going to tell you the story of me learning French, and why, after twelve years of study, I never learned to speak it. Spoiler: It has to do with exactly this—needing to do it well or refusing to do it at all.
When it comes to writing, you want to set goals that are about quantity, not quality.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, has this prayer written above her desk: “Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”
This week, I hope you make a ton of pots.
PS - Next week, I'm offering a workshop—this one on how to know if your idea is big enough to carry a book (whether it's fiction or nonfiction). We'll actually be workshopping your ideas together, so if you want to validate your idea before you spend months writing, this is the workshop for you. You can register here. Can't wait to hear what you're working on!
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Photo by Oshin Khandelwal on Unsplash