I want to produce great work. However, I understand that in order to produce great work, you usually have to produce a lot of work. Not everyone can be a Harper Lee. We’re often not good judges of whether we’ve done great work. For instance, most bloggers will point out that there are blog posts they thought were definite hits that fell flat. Likewise, there were quick posts they just got out there that they didn’t think anyone would read. Only, those are their most popular posts. This just goes to show how wrong we can often be as to what will appeal to people, what will be valuable and useful.
That’s why the advice is to be prolific, to produce a lot. I’ve heard this from Sebastian Marshall (blog | twitter) and Steven Pressfield especially. Pressfield, for instance, in The War of Art talks about how he has a particular routine about writing. Sebastian points this out when he answers the question of how he is able to write so much. Because we aren’t sure what is going to be seen as great, we just need to produce. There are advantages to doing this.
There Is a Greater Body of Work
Even our best stuff may attract someone’s attention. The more that you’ve done, the more you’re likely to attract the attention of others. If you blog a lot, then different posts will resonate with different people and your name will slowly make its way around that way. If you’re a cabinet builder and you do good work and you eventually work with every major contractor in your area and you are always doing good work, then you might get the opportunity that fits best with your skill set and gives you the opportunity to do truly great work. However, you first need the opportunity. The more work you have out there, the more likely you are to get a second look.
If You Are Trying to Improve, Each Production is Practice
If you’re just dumping stuff out there to dump stuff out there, then likely you’re quality level will reach a certain point and never get better. Even the point of doing a task over and over again means you should get to a particular level of proficiency. However, if you’re really trying to improve, if you’re pushing yourself with exercises and techniques appropriate for your level, then that should pay off for you. This is “intentional practice,” a concept coined by Geoff Colvin to explain what separates top performers from everybody else. It’s not innate talent unless that’s being able to grow 7′ tall so you can play center in the NBA. It’s hard work, lots of it, and the right kinds of hard work for your level. That’s the determining factor. So if you’re doing a lot of what you want to do, and you’re trying to get better, then you should be able to with some exceptions (usually physical).
You Don’t Know What Others Will Consider Great
Let’s face it, we don’t always do a good job figuring out what the people we are closest to will like. Ever buy a present for your significant other that you thought would put your name in lights and it was a bomb? Ever do something for your mom or dad that you thought would make their day only to find out it didn’t? So if we’re not so good at determining how the people around us will feel, we’re even worse when we talk about the world at large. Granted, we can do surveys, we can play the odds, etc., and for certain things we definitely should. However, even if we do these things we may not have a real hit. On the other hand, if we’re at it every day, if we’re working at something we’re passionate about, then we increase the likelihood that something will be produced that others will like. Maybe it won’t ever happen, but that brings up an important question: who are we doing it for? When I blog, I blog because I like to share. If folks read what I blog, that’s awesome. If they don’t, well, I still got to write and that’s awesome, too.
So in conclusion…
Be prolific. Do a lot of what you love. Produce as often as you can. Make art. Create. Build. And do so as often as you can. Learn and improve from every attempt. Put aside what others think or how many people even notice. Be prolific for your sake.