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Trick Question: Quality or Quantity?

potterIn high school I wrote a report on Stephen King. Two actually, for my junior and senior year English classes. (Well, one really, and a later “revised edition”). Whether you like or dislike Stephen King as a writer, you cannot deny that he is successful. During my research I read about King’s work habit in an interview. He would write for 8 hours every day, 362 days a year (he took off only three days). On average, he would produce ten pages of work every day, producing a book and a half a year. Take a look at his biography, to see the list of awards, movies, and novels with his name attached.

One more quick story. An art professor teaching a ceramics class divided the class into two groups. Group A, would have their grade based on the total number of pottery pieces they completed during the semester. Group B, would have their grade based on only a single final masterpiece that they had the entire semester to complete. Group A jumped in, churning out ceramics as fast as possible. Group B, planned, studied, strategized then finally towards the end of the semester, built their prize work. And at the end of the semester all the best pieces in the class came out of Group A.

Quality comes from quantity. As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “The first draft of anything is (excrement).” The first group of students developed the most skill and the best quality work because they spent the most time working. Stephen King, especially early in his career probably wrote a lot of work that he threw away in disgust, but he kept going consistently and persistently. (And fortunately his wife, Tabitha, pulled the first dozen or so pages of Carrie out of his wastebasket).

Here is my three step process to producing quality work.

1. Start. Do not wait for inspiration. Roll up your sleeves and work.
2. Keep Going.
3. Go to Step 2.

Then here are two sub-steps to help guide the process, but I wouldn’t add them in until at least 21 days have passed and you have developed a work habit of some sort. Also, these are always in addition to Step 2 and Step 3, never instead of them.

4. Review your work. Make sure you are progressing in the direction you want.
5. Seek Advice. From qualified people.

That’s my five step process to producing quality work. I know I like to keep things simple, but is that too simple? Would you add another step?

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