Words on a Page Writings about writing

Quantity or Quality?

A bunch of books, open flat, on a floor

I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want to write more. While doing that seems like a laudable goal, I wonder if you really should strive to do that.

Whenever I coach writers, regardless of their level of experience, I advise them to write with intent in order to improve. Writing with intent, however, doesn’t mean writing as much as you can.

With most of us, the more we write the more the quality of our writing dips. That happens because we’re spreading our ideas, our energy, and our attention too thinly.

Instead, you should aim for quality rather than quantity when you’re writing.

What do I mean by that? You should write less, but put as much of your energy and craft into what you’re writing. Work on making your writing shine. Make it glow. Make your writing as good as it can be.

By forsaking quantity for quality, you’re giving yourself license to produce your best writing. If you’re just starting out, you can focus on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. If you’re more experienced, you’ll have a better chance of selling your work and, I hope, for a higher fee.

But don’t let that become an excuse for letting the demon of perfectionism take hold of you. Don’t let that demon control you. You need to finish what you write, share or publish it, then move on.

That could mean what you’re writing might not be as good as you hoped it would be. Chances are, though, that it’ll be better than what you’d churn out if you were writing more.

What about aiming for quality and quantity? You can try, but achieving that balance is difficult. It takes a lot of ability to produce a high volume of work that’s of high quality. Far more ability than I have. And, yes, I’m speaking from experience.

You might be able to pull off balancing quality and quantity if what you’re writing is short — perhaps 500 words or less. Even then, the quality of what you write will vary. By how much … well, that’s up to you and your ability.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, aiming to write more is a laudable goal. Instead of doing that, write better. Write more often. By doing that, you’ll learn more, you’ll improve faster, and the overall quality of your work will increase.

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