With Creativity, Quantity Comes Before Quality

The other day my wife Kathleen and I were in the car listening to the new “Beatles” channel on our satellite radio. She remarked on the number of songs the Beatles had obviously recorded that we’d never heard before, and honestly, a significant number of those songs are junk. The Beatles literally transformed rock and roll, and we’ve come to think that everything they recorded was brilliant. But the truth is – even with the greatest artists – quantity comes before quality.

In other words, to mine gold, you have to dig through a lot of dirt. With the exception of only a handful of artists (although we don’t know how much artists like Shakespeare tossed in the trash or has been lost), the vast majority of creative geniuses had to learn the craft. And in that process, they created a lot of forgettable work.

The point is, don’t assume your first screenplay, novel, song, or other work is the big one. I met someone new to Hollywood last week who told me he was a screenwriter. “What have you written?” I asked. His reply? “One screenplay, and I’m trying to sell that.”

Good luck. Most successful writers have boxes full of screenplays, novels, notes, aborted projects and more that they would be embarrassed to show anyone. But all that work was a training camp; the roadmap that got them to where they are now.

So get to writing, filming, composing music, developing ideas – just do the work, and worry later about what’s good and what isn’t. Because that’s what it takes to get from where you are, to where you want to be.

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