Why Quantity Should Be Your Priority (Redux)

Quantity as a structure for creative practice, experimentation, and motivation

Herbert Lui
4 min readDec 15, 2020

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Image: Wikimedia

The biggest lie we’ve been told is that we have to choose between quantity and quality. Quantity and quality are not always tradeoffs. In fact, quantity can actually support mastery and quality. If we look through history, it’s not a coincidence that some of the most prominent artists are immensely prolific:

Dean Keith Simonton has written about the relationship between quantity and quality at a master’s level, concluding, “Quality is a probabilistic function of quantity.” Even masters enlisted the support of quantity to shoot at the moving target of quality.

More importantly, not everything these masters created were great. The only reason they even became recognized as “masters” might be due to one or two breakthroughs. We could look at Thomas Edison, known for the first practical and inexpensive incandescent lightbulb. We forget the more than 1,500 patents he applied for (he successfully acquired 1,000 of them), with major failures like the concrete houses.

Quantity is far from a guarantee, and certainly isn’t the only strategy to create something that people want. But, it’s the most reliable one. Here are three reasons why:

Quantity provides structure

A week before I wrote this, Austin Kleon wrote a blog post about quantity leading to quality. He writes, “The frequency of my work — showing up at regular intervals, without worrying about results — has actually lead to better results.” Similarly, Ryan Holiday wrote, “Quantity increases quality,” encouraging readers to use quantity to commit to the workload necessary to master their craft.

Lindsay Jean Thomson, facilitator of The 100 Day Project, wrote a similar idea, “If you want quality, start with quantity.” Even during this phase of early work, the results are real — there are 1.7 million posts with #The100DayProject on Instagram, each one documenting the…

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Herbert Lui

Covering the psychology of creative work for content creators, professionals, hobbyists, and independents. Author of Creative Doing: https://www.holloway.com/cd