Saturday, September 12, 2009

Art: Quantity vs. Quality

Here is an interesting story regarding the supposed conflict between quantity and quality.
In their book Art and Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland describe an experiment conducted by a pottery instructor. This instructor divided students into two groups - a "quantity" group and a "quality" group. The first group would be graded according to the sheer amount of pots they produced over the course of the semester, without regard to quality. The second group would be required to produce one single pot, and would be graded according to its quality.

At the end of the semester - lo and behold! - the pots of the highest quality were produced by the quantity group.

Is it the same for all areas of creative endeavor, do you think? Is it the same for writing?


  1. Wow. That's an amazing experiment. It shows how we can work something to death, trying to make it perfect and perhaps losing the joy and spirit--and how the act of continuously making things helps us grow creatively. Got to remember this one!

  2. It points to the fact that practice makes perfect, and I think that applies to writing as well.

  3. I agree with Tricia and Doug - the more you write, the more you learn. Writing is constantly evolving, and one of the things I love about the craft. I know that I become more of a writer with each word on the page.

  4. Hmmm? I think that I would like to know more about the study. How many pots did the quantity group make?

    I have pretty strong feelings about this because of the implications.

    I would like to know where the level of efficiency curves off. In running, people who work out five days a week tend to have the greatest gains for the time put in. The curve levels off when people work out six or seven days a week. They still tend to reach a higher level, but the level of improvement is not so steep anymore. What I am getting at is that there may be a medium between quantity and quality. It seems that if you are just heartlessly creating, well, then you might burn out and loose some quality. But, if all you did was create one product, well then, it could just be hit or miss.

    Thanks for the info. It's good to get some research like that because it approaches things from the opposite direction, which makes me grow.

    I had an English Methods teacher (for my high school certification program) say that feedback hardly matters if students are not required to do a rewrite. With writing, you have revisions. Are those revisions counted as new pots or the same pot worked over again? If a revision is counted as a new pot, well I have created many pots for this one major project. But, if we count one attempt at a novel as one pot, then I have not created so many pots.

    Either way, I've finally moved on to the next project and I believe that it is a good thing.


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