Producing lots of work

One of the core things I believe about doing good work is that you first need to produce a lot of (probably bad) work in the same craft (ideally even using the same technology).[1]

Examples:

  • “It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close [the gap between your taste and what you make], and your work will be as good as your ambitions.” – Ira Glass

  • The parable that roughly goes: in a ceramics class, half the students were told they’d be graded on the single best piece they could make, and the other half by the total weight of the pottery they made. The half that went by weight produced better quality stuff at the end, because they got more practice. It’s apparently from the book Art and Fear and quoted here (search for “There is a famous parable”).

    • As an aside, I think this point beautifully illustrates why volume of work is more important than, e.g., Malcolm Gladwell’s “10k hours”—because both groups spend the same amount of time.[2] The point is finishing things. (Ira Glass also mentions this in his full quote: “Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.”)
  • Tim Rogers, who “want[s] to make the most detailed, most wildly written, elaborate video reviews of video games on YouTube,” (and I think is succeeding), made around 150 videos for Kotaku before starting his independent project.

  • Maddy Thorson, lead creator of beloved indie games like Celeste, lists sixteen games on her website before the breakout hit game Towerfall. (Plus, who knows how many prototypes aren’t listed.)


This presents a hard-to-swallow implication for someone like me that has many interests and not enough free time to devote to all of them: that I wont be able to put in the required volume of work in any of them.

I think this amounts to a more technical definition of “spreading yourself thin.”


  1. I mean “technology” broadly, including stuff like oil paints or maybe a type of ceramic glaze (I don’t know pottery). ↩︎

  2. Disclaimer: I haven’t read Gladwell’s book, so he might cover this distinction 🤷‍♂️. ↩︎

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started Oct 15, 2022
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