quantity over quality

The inverse of that phrase is heard and seen everywhere. It is well-intentioned, and wants to encourage careful, intentional thought behind what you produce. But I think all creatives know how harmful it can be.

In my creative journey, the summer of 2018 was a big moment. I’d released my first handful of songs that I was decently proud of, and was the start of me putting myself out there. For sure, it was a daunting experience, but just showing people what I’d made felt really good. I kick myself about it all the time but I’ve since not released a single tune to Spotify. Sadly, its cause is blindingly obvious: a deep-rooted fear that whatever I make simply isn’t good enough for release, or that it doesn’t perfectly align with my made-up “artistic vision” for myself.

The infamous “writer’s block” is hardly ever caused by a lack of ideas, but more often than not by the crippling perfectionism that stops people from making stuff and showing it to people, which is—ironically—the end goal for a lot of people like me.

I believe I’ve found my cure in the title of this post: quantity over quality. It honestly doesn’t matter what your instinct decides to vomit out, because the greater evil would be to choke your output because it isn’t “perfect” the moment you first put it to paper. The inverse, traditional phrase has some currency in limited contexts, such as in editing or curating, but it was never meant for the generative part of someone’s process.

Now I see that sculpting an artistic image must be secondary to the actual making and releasing of content. To put it bluntly, whether it’s out in the world or on a hard drive, you cannot curate an empty portfolio. Creating and editing, although both necessary parts of a process respectively, actually hurt each other when done simultaneously: the former is generative, the latter reductive. How would you write a poem if you were editing lines out faster than you were putting them on the page?

This philosophy now seems so general that it could apply to virtually anything, but I have faith that it should be this universal. In practice, we should first be producing as much garbage as our imagination allows us to, then sorting through it once we’ve exhausted our creative energy. That is the only way to guarantee that the final product truly represents the best of what we are capable of. Through speaking with friends, I’ve found this even applies outside of the arts: having your ideas out in front of you will almost always make it easier to see what needs to go.

It reminds me of that classic university essay-writing advice: “write drunk, edit hungover”. Of course that isn’t advisable as an M.O. but it communicates the principle. All this said, I hope to strengthen my own resolve to release music, but also to encourage you to contemplate less and create more.

P.S. The first draft of this was horrendous and twice as long … I’m learning 😌

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