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Get Fast Before Getting Good

Recently I read an article where the author stressed quality over quantity. Although, in principle, I agree with him, I am in the “quantity” camp. However, I can say from experience that quality comes with quantity.

Before I go any further, let me reiterate the story that illustrated the importance of quantity over quality for those who haven’t encountered it yet.

A ceramics teacher announced on the opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. “All those on the left side of the studio,” he said, “would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.”

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. 

Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seemed that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay. — David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear

This is what I have found with my own work. Since I have started concentrating on quantity, writing an ‘X’ number of articles in a week rather than a ‘Y’ number of excellent articles in a month, I am getting better and better.

It is a different matter that you don’t want to “practice in public” and only want to publish your best article, but believe me, that will be a limiting strategy.

Recently I have started sponsoring to another view.

Initially, we can’t become good, even if we want to.

When we start writing, we are like toddlers learning to walk. A toddler can’t walk fast even if he wants to. So he concentrates on putting one foot over another. Once he learns that, he starts to run. He doesn’t worry about getting his feet on the ground properly; he just dashes ahead, even at the cost of falling on his bum.

Like a toddler, my goal is to get faster at something before I get better. 

It used to take me seven to eight hours to write an article. Now I can write the same article in three to four hours. My goal is to get it down to one hour.

Once I can write an article in one hour, I can concentrate on how to balance it. How to introduce humor in it. How to end it properly. How to write compelling headlines. 

Before getting faster, I concentrated on getting consistent. 

I used to write a diary, just on the weekend. Then, a few years ago, I started writing a page a day. It was a big commitment initially. I would miss days, sometimes weeks, particularly when I was traveling. So now, whenever I am traveling, I take my diary with me. Each morning that is the first thing I do. Write a page in my A5 diary. It has become such a habit that even if I want to break it, I can’t.

Following that, I started a 100 days challenge. I started writing a short article on social media. I did it for 100 days consecutively. I missed two days in the whole period, but I was euphoric. I can do it. 

It took an hour and a half initially. Soon I was able to reduce the whole thing to just ten to fifteen minutes. It included writing and posting on three platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram). Now I can do it in less than ten minutes. 

I am posting manually on each platform. I intentionally don’t use any software to schedule posting. Because posting manually allows me to check other people’s posts, leave them comments, and respond to comments on my own posts. 

Once I got consistent in writing and posting daily, I set my eyes on bigger goals.

Following the success of posting small articles, I set myself a challenge to write 100 Articles in 100 Days

Previous to that, I was writing one to two articles a week. On average, it was taking me seven to eight hours over different days to write one article. I am on day 22 today, and already I’m taking less than three hours. 

A lot of it is planning; I select images in one sitting, do the footer for many articles in advance, and spend five minutes to outline as soon as an idea comes to me. 

When it comes to writing, I write in 15 minutes sprints with an actual timer. 

Earlier I used to edit as I wrote, not anymore. I’m now writing in a flow state, leaving the editing for another day. Usually, on the day I’m going to publish. That gives me time to rest the article and let new ideas germinate to make that article even more interesting. 

I see myself as a two-year-old.

I only started blogging two years ago, so I can consider myself a two-year-old in the blogging world where some writers have been writing for seven to ten years. 

It doesn’t matter how much I want; I cannot be as good as a seven-year-old or a ten-year-old writer. But if I can write faster, I can write more articles in a week and a month (and eventually in a year). Then there is a good chance of catching up. 

That is why in this 100-day challenge, I’m not aiming to publish in big publications. Instead, my aim is not to break the streak and get faster and faster. 

I publish daily on my profile and then submit them to a publication that accepts pre-published articles. When I have reduced my article writing time to under one hour, I will concentrate on getting good. 

Already I’m writing two articles a day, one for the same day and one for next week. So if there is something unexpected happens, I have to travel, or visitors drop in unannounced, I have an article scheduled for that day. Scheduling is a great way to ensure consistency. 

I have not reached Tim Denning’s stage to write five articles a day, but I’m sure if I continue following this strategy, in not so distant future, I will be able to replicate his method of writing. Tim writes a week’s worth of articles in two days. That is a big ask. 

To Sum Up

Whatever skill you are learning, try to get fast at it before getting good. 

I have been doing the same with my paintings and sketching and receiving similar results. 

Finishing a thing earlier means you have more time for yourself. And who doesn’t need more time these days?

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