Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quantity vs. Quality

I read this quote the other day in a lifehack.org article: “To be really creative you need to generate a large number of ideas before you refine the process down to a few to test out.”

Interesting. I’ve always thought that each of my ideas is something I need to turn into a story at some point. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe that’s just arrogance. Maybe I just need to keep coming up with lots of ideas so that I have enough things to choose from when it’s time to write a story.

I like this idea. It feels like a good one. Of course, that could be because over the past few weeks, as I’ve revved up my writing practice, ideas have been flinging themselves at me from all quarters. Ideas for stories. Ideas for poems. Ideas for blog posts. I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed, wondering when I’m going to be able to write all of this. But what if I don’t have to? What if all I need to do is keep writing down the ideas, saving them for later, picking only the best when it’s finally time to write?

That would be a huge relief. And I think it would really help eliminate the sort of writer’s block that comes from not being able to think up a story idea when you want one. It would most definitely eliminate the sort of block I get sometimes, the block that comes from worrying that after I finish the current story I won’t have any more ideas. If I always have a stash of ideas, and if I keep adding to it, I can just throw that fear right out the window.

I’m adopting this idea. It feels like something I can really work with. I like the thought of getting rid of one of my stumbling blocks to finishing stories, too. No more “quantity vs. quality.” It isn’t one or the other. From now on, it’s “quantity breeds quality.” Now I just need to get a bigger notebook.

3 comments:

Phiala said...

One of my favorite quotes:
“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away”. Dr. Linus Pauling

Good science is every bit as creative as good art, though rarely recognized as such by nonscientists. The trick in both cases is to learn to recognize which ideas are valuable in their own right, which may contribute to something later and should be recorded even though they aren't useful now, and which should be discarded.

Laura said...

Thanks, Phiala--that was the quote I was trying to think of! I'm sure I've seen others, too. The more ideas in your stash, the more selective you can be. It's related to having numerous projects going--there's always at least one you're in the mood for.

Hmm. I'm wondering about writing ideas on separate slips of paper and sticking them in a jar, for later perusal. And, knowing me, for arranging on a table to see if there were duplicates, or ones that cross-pollinate nicely.

With science--like art--it doesn't do to get too hung up on one interpretation, or you can miss the insights that sidle along the edges of your thoughts. I've been feeling very separated from my intuition for a long time, and it makes those sneaky thoughts much harder to catch.

Kim said...

Excellent quote! Thanks, Phiala. It is in a lot of ways a very obvious idea, but I think it's one we either overlook quite often or one we disbelieve because we fall for the romantic notion of the "aha!" moment, the single great lightning bolt idea that will change everything and be just the thing.

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