This week’s question: On average, how many creations do you make? How do you view the classic quantity versus quality debate?
I work on a variety of different projects ranging from composing, arranging, recording, analyzing, and performing music in various contexts, to designing and conducting lessons and sessions for music students and creative lifestyle coaching clients, to working on consultant projects (current one is designing the logic map and functionality of a website search filter for a company with 15,000+ products), to curating Thought Mixing Bowl. (Of course there are a handful of other projects waiting in line in my head to be launched as well.) Simply due to the sheer number of projects, I am consistently creating a high volume of creations. The distribution may shift from one project to another based on inspiration or priorities, but every day I am creating multiple things. For me, the variety of projects is not a negative, but a necessity as it allows me to continuously work my creativity muscle while avoiding burn out on a single path. This also allows some ideas a proper incubation period in order to fully develop.
I find the quantity versus quality question to be a bit of a farce. They’re part of the same thing (hence my photo: “quantlity”. I don’t do a lot of photography so I’m aware that the quality is not stellar). You can’t achieve quality without quantity. You need to put in the quantity of repetition to develop specific skills, you also need quantity in variety to give yourself a broad palette of ideas to work with, and you need quantity in filtering through combinations of ideas to find the quality connecting of dots.
But at the heart of this is the fact that there needs to be a quality to the quantity. Passive quantity won’t do the trick. One needs a mindful quantity. It’s the focused practicing (you won’t progress your skills if you don’t realize the mistakes you’re making), the focused listening (you won’t gain unique perspectives to pull into your work if you don’t truly hear them and understand them), focused filtering (properly assessing the possibilities and permutations of ideas) that progresses someone forward. Also, everyone needs the successes of creating quality work in order to create more. If a degree of quality doesn’t come after some time people will give up (or continue for a bit longer with significant outside influence – looking at you well-paid uninspiring day jobs).
So which came first:
Chicken or the egg? Quality or quantity?
Musician/Composer/Teacher/Ecommerce Strategy Consultant/Personal Coach/Lover of Thinking and Learning
I don’t know if I can put a count how many creations, but if I had to, I would put my creations into categories; assisting, bread baking (Goose Lemon), sketch book – simple line drawings + watercolor, photography – instant film + digital, self + clients. I am constantly moving or working on something and find balance between all.
I think one must constantly be challenging their medium in order to understand it. Therefore, I tend to think quality comes from quantity. For me, creating art has a slow pace and gradually I see progress when I have work to reflect on. If I am not creating anything, then how will I see progress? Quantity allows for reflection and reflection brings forth views of quality. If I am not pushing the content, the idea of the piece will not develop – I too, will not develop. By challenging the medium, I am allowing myself to continue moving. This lets me get a better feel for what my interest is and what keeps my attention.
My all-time favorite book / sounding board is Art and Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland. One of the points they make is this; “You learn how to make your work by making your work.” It all comes down to just having to create, because no one else is going to do it for you. Make lots of work and then sort things that stand out, there you will find what quality you hold.
Michaela M. Powell
Assistant / Creative Person
I like to keep in mind the fact that Anton Webern was an absolutely brilliant composer and, at his creative peak, he considered a day productive if he had composed even a few measures that he was happy with. I admire prolific people for their prolificacy and I try to be as prolific as I can myself, but the longer I’m alive and active as an artist, the more it dawns on me that prolificacy is often borne more out a fear of stillness or a fear of not having something to say than an actual need to say anything. Sometimes I have to catch myself and force myself to take a break so that I don’t ruin something purely due to my need to get it out of my system as quickly as I can. And I only average an album once every couple of years, which is actually rather close to average for musicians these days.
In other words, I think people shouldn’t sweat how prolific they are–it depends on your personality type and your working style, and some of the greatest artists who ever lived made just a few pieces of truly transcendent work.
I try to make as much as possible. I work as a designer for an agency during the day so my projects tend to take place during the evenings and when I have spare time. I have a small studio space at home that allows me to experiment and play. I use the computer a lot during work so I like to get my hands dirty on my own projects.
I’m always thinking and making notes/lists/sketches for my projects and have quite a stock pile, so I take a look through every now and again, mostly to discard bad ideas. There are a few golden nuggets in there at the moment, which I am excited to develop and get stuck into.
I always like to have a project on the go so that I am able to plan and develop it in my mind. I usually spend a few weeks pondering over an idea before actually working on it. This helps me to go through every detail to help the project be it’s best.
I always try and make something to the best of my ability and don’t release it into the world until I am happy with the result. Quality is such an important thing when putting your name to something. The way people browse images on the internet, I kind of feel like the work has to be something special for the viewer to stop and look at it for a minute. The internet gives us access to so much visually, it’s very easy for the good stuff to get passed by.
As for quantity I also believe you have to constantly be producing work, it helps to keep people interested in what you are doing and also helps the creator improve, learn and develop their style.
All of my favourite artists and illustrators are prolific makers, with very recognisable styles allowing the viewer to instantly recognise their work. This is something I have struggled with – consistency. I love to experiment and use different media in my work which doesn’t help.
To sum up my thoughts I feel that quality should be the most important thing when making something. Quantity is a close second. Nobody wants to be a one hit wonder. I strive to get better and make more interesting things, it’s what makes doing it all fun.
To truly live a creative life I have to create things all the time, and the more I make, the more inspired I become. For me, there is no debate: quantity will lead to quality. I make sure to do something creative every day even if it’s as small as writing in my journal, or drawing a doodle.
As a writer it’s easier to quantify what I create – number of blog posts and podcast shows – and I try to keep a regular schedule for that. As an improv comedian it’s very different. I have regularly scheduled rehearsals and shows, and some days like Sunday, I’m in the theater performing for about 5-6 hours a night in two or three different shows. Those are my happiest days when I’m living completely in the present and laughing a lot.
The funny thing about improvisation is that we, as a team, create something in the moment that will never be seen again. There are no videos and rarely photos. Whether we had an amazing or just ok show I always feel that it was quality because we got out there and did something rather than nothing. And if the audience was engaged and moved emotionally that’s a bonus.
I’ve learned that creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised with repetition, and constant exposure to new experiences, people and ideas. This is why I design improv workshops for people and organizations to explore their creativity and enhance collaboration.
How many creations do I make? As many I can as often as I can.
For myself personally, I believe quality should come first. Once you create a quality product day in day out, the quantity will take care of itself. I’d rather put my heart and soul in 1 creation then go crazy busting out 100 creations in a short amount of time. When quality is important then creativity can flourish.
With my full time job being a graphic designer at a newspaper it is important for us to boost our ad production. Usually for myself I create about 30 ads a day roughly this is a mix of corrections and new ads that I would have to create. There is no set amount I have to hit each day. It is basically how much time I should be dedicated to ad production not the quantity. For a graphic designer in our department they should dedicate 5 hours in ad production a day. It has always been stressed to us that quality comes first. I should create an ad that I want to put in my portfolio.
I don’t do a lot of freelancing but I do have side projects from time to time. That is usually 2 a month depending if its my own projects or if I am creating for someone else. The quality is still important to me. I figure my name is on it, I am the one creating it, and I want it to be the best it can be.
On any given week I make a least 10 creations; sketches, watercolor illustrations, progress on other creative outlets. I think the variety of two dimensional practice and three dimensional sculpture/sewing/weaving keeps me away from ever feeling uninspired. Being creatively unsatisfied can be a real bummer, so its amazing what ideas cross over to other mediums when you have a pool of options to work with.
Quantity versus quality are different creatures for me and each deserve their own respect—at least in terms of process. It all depends on what my objective is. I’m currently producing as many illustrations as possible so I can keep my creativity going aside from my bread & butter projects. I find it therapeutic to look back at a pile of drawings and repurpose them for fabric patterns, collages, or collaboration with another creative. I look back on work I rejected years ago. Quantity doesn’t have to be seen as exhaustive, it can just be a way of sharing your thoughts. You can say that the final outcome is choosing quality, but I equate struggling through the quantity just as important as the final product.
Natasha Rose Leal
Freelance Creative Director + Illustrator
Quantity versus quality is an occurring debate that I run into on a daily basis. To give you an answer on how many creations I make on average would be difficult because you stop keeping a record when you work at fast paced companies.
I often consider external forces as defining factors for quantity versus quality. When I have enough time and resources for a project, quality tends to be the main focus. However, if time is pressing and there are stakeholders involved, quantity could overrule quality.
Freelance and personal projects allow me to set my own deadlines to grant enough time on developing a concept and executing its details. But at work, I am in a position where I have to fulfill the design needs of multiple people, and my time and objectives are then adjusted to appease everyone.
So on average, I would have to produce 3 to 7 different creations on a regular work day, versus one personal creation I could work on for a month. It will be a lifelong journey to achieve a successful balance between the two aspects.
Designer and Illustrator
Toronto, ON. Canada
At least in terms of level design, I make a ton of creations! One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced throughout the development of World Zombination has been the struggle to make each city in the game feel unique. There are over two dozen cities, and each has three flavors as a function of difficulty. Art can go a long way, and our artists have made a ton of region and city-specific decor to make our cities look and feel like the real thing. Adjusting the lighting and changing the music has also been low-hanging fruit. The challenge for me personally has been to create gameplay encounters and mechanics that flow and evolve throughout a city’s three difficulties but remain unique and help to give each city identity. When the game launches, we’ll see how well I did!
Senior Game Designer
I’m always under pressure to produce more. The pressure comes not only from clients, but also from myself – after all, the more works I write or edit, the more money I make. Simple, right?
The trouble is, I don’t gain much satisfaction from churning out piece after piece. The quicker I do something, the more likely there are to be mistakes, and the perfectionist in me cringes any time that a mistake makes it through to print. I gain much more satisfaction from poring over an article for hours, doing that extra bit of research, tweaking it to perfection. I’d rather have a handful of long articles that I can be proud of than a deluge of second-rate work.
In the end though, it comes down to balance – if I only produced a few articles, I’d never make enough to keep going, so it becomes a constant trade-off between producing stuff quickly and producing the longer, more “worthy” stuff. But if times are tight, as they often are, the pressure to produce can squeeze out the satisfaction.
Without a defined timeframe, that’s a hard question to answer. I typically have 5-8 projects I’m designing for that I need to juggle. Not every project requires constant attention and the focus on each is slightly different. In my role I sometimes find myself directing and working alongside our other designers. Other times I am in the thick of designing and laying out projects. Each project has its own checkpoints and check-ins with our team and our client. This keeps the work exciting and many things happening across the studio.
With quantity and quality I typically see appropriate times for each. In the beginning of designing for a new brand many ideas are tried, executed, built out to see which succeed and fail. This is also where we get to move fast, try things we’ve been eager to play with and get the crew excited. A lot of sharing between projects happens here; ideas that are discovered moving quickly but might not make it to the final round. We tend to dip back into good ideas and find ways to resurface them. The studio gets into the quality once things have gotten rolling and a project has a clear direction. We can slow down, formalize what we’ve spent time on and learn from our pursuits. This is where sketches get tightened and broad strokes become fine lines.
I work as a visual development artist in the animation / film industry and often it depends on the budget / scope of the project I’m working on that dictates how much time I get to explore e.g. a character design before final version. I can make anything from one finalized character design (creation) a day to one every 2 weeks. When it comes to quantity vs quality, ironically in this industry quantity can equal quality. Through repetition you are learning from your mistakes and honing your craft. You are also building your speed as a draughtsman / woman and forcing yourself to imagine bigger better ideas with every drawing. There is a saying ‘every artist has a 1000 bad drawings in them, the only way you’re going to get at the good ones is to draw out the bad.’ This, however, does not mean draw mindlessly. You’re drawing to solve a design problem or to learn something. Much of the time the quality of the idea and how it is communicated is the most important thing. Good drawing skills are important to communicate an idea and those are only achieved through quantity of drawing.
I write every day at the nonprofit where I work. The content creation can include writing words, editing photos, designing graphics, and laying out videos. With all these pieces, I find that quantity is necessary to get to the quality. The more variations and the more ideas, the better the options to work from.
I’m convinced that most “famous authors” or “well-known movie-makers” have perfected the art of persistently editing. We only see the finished and clean product. To produce the work not only took years of practice, but starting with a longer work (quantity) and editing it down to it’s final form (quality). They don’t give up.
Producing a quantity of creations also helps to learn what resonates with people. Publish 10 videos. Learn which two resonated most. Make 10 more videos like the two best from the previous batch. And so on.
Social Media Specialist at Feed My Starving Children
Social Media Strategist at CreativeMornings/Minneapolis
My creative creations are my written articles. The best thing about what I do is I have the freedom to choose my topics. I can be inspired by small happenings in a day or big events. My inspiration fuels how many creations I make. I usually have several articles in process that range in length from long projects to my weekly article for a local newspaper. I’ve always been someone who thrived in an environment of variety and the many writing projects provide just that. It’s hard to answer how many creations I make – however many I have time for!
My process for my writing is similar for all my articles no matter what length the project is. It keeps my quality the same from a short piece to a project that may take months or years. The general process for quality control is: inspiration and idea, research, interviews, notes, following the story, writing, editing, and rewriting. Since some topics take more research than others and some ideas are more grand than others, it really just depends on what I’m working on. Quality comes first but quantity is important too. I’m currently trying to up the quantity of my creations to “pay the bills”. The more work you have out, the more credible you become, the more work you will be offered. It’s a fine line to walk because you can’t put too much on your plate and sacrifice quality to gain more quantity.
What do you think?