News: Quality vs. Quantity

2012-06-09 16:20:PM ago by nicole.boyce

At our recent filling Station collective meeting, we discussed writing as a daily habit. For many, writing is not just a hobby but a discipline, a part of the creative hygiene routine. To work at something daily, you need to set realistic goals, but with something as fluid as writing, how can you measure commitment? Should you measure in hours or word counts? Pages produced or best intentions? When it comes to daily writing, what’s the better focus: quantity or quality?

Ideally, you could achieve both. But quality doesn’t come quickly and most of us have jobs, families or felines to worry about. Even the most focused writers lose steam at some point; assuming you can’t do it all each day, is there value in exercises like National Novel Writing Month? Or are these purges just wastes of time – sprints that distract from the marathon?

Truman Capote comes to mind. When asked about Jack Kerouac’s whirlwind On the Road, he famously smirked “That’s not writing, it’s typing.” On the other hand, I’ve heard people say that unless you're writing 3000 words a day, you're not a writer. (Where does that leave minimalist poets?)

It depends on what works for you. Personally, I prefer quantity – by licensing myself to write poorly, I open the door for experimentation. There’s a safety net implicit in bulk, a permission slip for indulging yourself. The refinement part comes later, in sorting the craft from the crap. Still, it’s easier to deal with a month’s worth of junk than to stare at a blank page, hoping the genius will find you. If writing’s the gold, I’d rather try panning than alchemy.

What do you think? What’s the best way to flex the writing muscle?

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