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Quantity Versus Quality

Southwestern Pottery by John HritzA high school pottery teacher split his class in half. To one half he told them they only had to produce one perfect pot by the end of the semester and they would get an A. He turned to the other class. They had to produced fifty pounds of pots by the end of the semester. It didn’t matter whether the pots they made were good or not. They had to be pots and there had to be fifty pounds of them.

By the end of the year, who do you think produced the best pot?

It’s really a question of what makes better work, quality or quantity?

I recently got back from a year-long trip around the world with a big group of people. One day in the Transylvanian mountains of Romania, one of my friends asked for some advice. “I want to be a writer. How do you do it?”

“Write every day,” I said. “Do you do that?”

“No, but I have a lot of ideas for good books.”

“That’s not enough. To be a writer, you have to write. Every day.”

He didn’t bring up the subject for a couple of months. I thought I had scared him off when he came up to me in Turkey. He had spent two weeks writing a novel, and wanted my advice.

“How much have you written?” I asked, expecting about five or six pages.

He replied, “One-hundred and fifty pages single-spaced.”

Holy crap. There I was struggling to write a page a day and he was writing ten a day. Later that year, he wrote three-quarters of a movie script and five episodes of a TV series. I saw some of his stuff and it had plenty of flaws, but in the meantime, I only had written a few blogs, a dozen pages in a novel, and another two dozen of worthless crap.

It’s a question of what makes better work: quantity or quality?

Who produced the best pot in the class? The quantity people or the quality people? The quality people spent hours on a single pot, throwing it and rethrowing it. But by the end, none of them had made a perfect pot. The quantity people on the other hand, made so many pots so quickly that over time they figured out how to do it right. By the end of the semester, they could throw the perfect pot.

Quantity wins.

And my friend? He’s starting to become a better writer than me. Now, I’m asking him for writing advice.

PRACTICE

For fifteen minutes, write as much as you can about the people you work with. Do you ever have any conflicts with them? What do they look like? What are your interactions like? Don’t edit. Just write.

Make sure you post your practice in the comments. Let’s see who can write the most!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • Rincon Stevie

    What a funny way to talk about the people you work with…back office…the real work is done…in the back office. The real trouble, for me, is mostly CAUSED in the back office. I love getting the right information in the right box. I get energised just thinking about systems so I can put things in order…not that my brain is organized…sorry, not…but the appeal to be organized, that is sexy. I like having the right box for the right tool. The right furniture of the right tax. The right jig for the right cut…unfortunately, I can’t draw, write neatly, cut compicated angles. I can’t fit the right shirt in the right drawer, or get my change organized. But the appeal still calls. And that brings me to the back office. Their job is to make sure that my paperwork is matched up perfectly with the client aspirations for their money. And since we are talking about money…it is important that these things match up. Given that I am challenged in this area…vertically…horizont
    ally…diagonaly…spacially…I struggle. I like to think I am a good administrator…everyone tells me I am a good administrator. Of course I can’t spell…and it irritates me when I meet other people who can’t spell. I’d like to think I can figure things out, but when I need help, I call my back office. And that, is often the begining of the loss of my “peace”. This usually happens slowly…given that the usual call starts with three minutes of hold and annoying music…then progresses to the identification process, where I usually have forgotten the specifics of why I called because I’ve gone on to something else in the precious time I was waiting. But of course, then I sound like a dimwit…and credibility matters when you are on the other end of a wire…it isn’t the same thing as being able to get right in someone’s space…but I digress. The point is that I usually start my back office visit behind the eightball. Moving on, I try to recoup the advantage of moral high
    ground by asksing for the person’s name again, just so they know that I am going to keep track of just exactly what the do for me. And I write their name down and the time I spoke to them and if I am lucky they won’t transfer me to someone else. They usually try to help…they are nice…usually…sometimes they are smart and will try very hard to plumb the depth of my problem…but as the conversation drags on, it becomes clear…all to often, that they can’t help me because I have used the wrong form, or missed a check box that will now have to be initialed by the client…and often I need to reverify the identity of the client because their drivers license has expired, whipeing the validity of their identity right out of the system. And so, in order to fix the problem I called about, I should have known, that the identity of the client I’ve delt with for 25 years, needs to be re certified. Damn. How did I get to this place where my voice is tense, my bp is elevated and my frustration with the need to get things in the right little box has come back to bite me…one more time.

    • Joe Bunting

      Glad you stopped by to practice Mr. Stevie!

      I love the stream of consciousness in this post. It has an energy to it, a frenetic pace. We don’t necessarily need to understand what you’re talking about because the voice is interesting.

      I would love to see you write a specific scene in this voice rather than just speaking in generalities. I can see you have a lot of material here. It would be cool to see the specifics, the real people in the annoying office drama.

      “Damn. How did I get to this place where my voice is tense, my bp is elevated and my frustration with the need to get things in the right little box has come back to bite me…one more time.” I love that! That could be the first sentence to an amazing scene.

  • Anonymous

    Greg is stocky. Like a brick. He talks in a low voice. Instead of taking the stairs up to Sassafras tower, he climbs hand over hand up the guy cable to the platform twenty feet above it, a beast. I don’t envy him his strength. I get to watch him perform, but I don’t care to join. I don’t need acrobatics or feats of strength to be happy. We sling people through trees. It’s the job I do. They fly, seventy feet above the ground, screaming, often. I enjoy the woods, the white and red oaks, the hickory trees, the buckeye and dogwood and beech trees as much or more as my fellow empoyees. The muscadine and virginia creeper and kudzu are silent coworkers. I find blackberries along the trails and chew on sourwood and my lips pucker. A conversation.

    Greg and the other employees are interesting too, I guess. After our training some of the tour guides threw a party at the A Frame. How do you refuse a party on your first week of a job? I had to go. I pulled up in the darkness. They sat around a fire, ten of them. They smoke and drank Bud Light. “Anyone want a Fat Tire Summer Ale?” I asked, lifting the beer I brought, feeling like an idiot. Chills of pre-rejection crept up my spine.

    “You’re from California right,” said Jeff.

    “Yeah.”

    “Wow. You miss it?”

    “Not really. It’s like every other place right. There are good things and bad things, but after you’ve been there for long enough, you don’t see them anymore. I miss the people though.”

    He offered me his bong. “You smoke.” I declined.

    Trevor pulled up with his sister Tina. She is six two. A giantess. He brought a 24 pack, a handle of bourbon and a two liter of coke. He shook everyone’s hand eagerly, a big smile on his face. He’s a born salesman. Then, he poured a big glass two-thirds full of bourbon and filled the rest with coke.

    “How many drinks have you had, Jeff? I need to catch up!”

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  • Seth

    It’s fun to watch the interaction here.

    You ought to meet this guy – Seth grew up with him on Summerwood Cr: http://youngmanoldman.blogspot.com/

    • Joe Bunting

      Lives in gainesville?

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  • http://letmemoveyou.me Shelley Lundquist

    I am an entrepreneur. I don’t work with anybody unless I am collaborating on a project.

    It’s been years since I had a full-time job working for someone else. I miss it dreadfully. There is something so empowering about working with a team of people that you respect and who respect you. Maybe it was because I felt the difference I made there.

    I worked for a Women’s Centre whose purpose was to provide a place for women who were victims of violence to turn. I met so many strong and courageous women who will always have a special place in my heart. I spent seven life-changing years there. Growing. Healing. Making a difference.

    Sarah was a counsellor there for over 20 years. Her faith in God was strong and she seemed so different than the others. She set boundaries for herself that I never understood. Her beautiful blonde hair framed her face with golden light. She always had an air of peace about her that I found astonishing given the difficulty of our backdrop. Sarah always seemed so able to leave the horrendous stories she heard in the moment she heard them She did not carry them like I did, but then I wasn’t a counsellor. There was a time I thought this made her less caring, but I discovered it was the secret to her strength. She never had lunch with any of the rest of us. She was not part of the convivial camaraderie that the rest of us enjoyed. She kept to herself. But from time to time, she would stop by my office to talk and to acknowledge. She was a puzzle to me. I remember once when she came into my office and she sat down. She was quiet at first, and then she told me how glad she was that I had become part of the team. She told me that she admired that I always spoke up for what I believed in, no matter the outcome – that for me, everything was about justice and doing what was right. I gloried in that moment – that recognition. So much so, that I let it define me for years. I felt I had to be that person and that it was my obligation to fight for justice like a lack-lustre superhero.

    And then there was Evelyn. She was Chairman of the Board, and a corporate shrike from hell. She and I shared no common ground. From her perspective, I never knew my place. I did not bow down to her as she entered the room. I did not kiss her ass incessantly, or ever for that matter, so that she could feel good about herself. Evelyn was a short round troll of a woman, with a blonde bob that never bounced playfully. It framed a cruel face and small dark eyes that could look right through you. She, I do not miss. (or is that her? My education seems to have abandoned me!)

    Anna was a God-send. She taught me so many valuable lessons. She was a gentle woman, with kind eyes and a great sense of humour. Her positivity was palpable! I had expected her office to be cave-like, with pillows on the ground where she sat to ponder life’s mysteries. She was our sage guru. She once declared to me that she had never met a woman so confident her abilities and what she could achieve who ahd no confidence in herself. Wow! She packed quite a wallop! I felt stripped bare and ashamed that she saw right through me. I was sure she was sent to help me heal. And that she did.

  • http://letmemoveyou.me Shelley Lundquist

    I am an entrepreneur. I don’t work with anybody unless I am collaborating on a project.

    It’s been years since I had a full-time job working for someone else. I miss it dreadfully. There is something so empowering about working with a team of people that you respect and who respect you. Maybe it was because I felt the difference I made there.

    I worked for a Women’s Centre whose purpose was to provide a place for women who were victims of violence to turn. I met so many strong and courageous women who will always have a special place in my heart. I spent seven life-changing years there. Growing. Healing. Making a difference.

    Sarah was a counsellor there for over 20 years. Her faith in God was strong and she seemed so different than the others. She set boundaries for herself that I never understood. Her beautiful blonde hair framed her face with golden light. She always had an air of peace about her that I found astonishing given the difficulty of our backdrop. Sarah always seemed so able to leave the horrendous stories she heard in the moment she heard them She did not carry them like I did, but then I wasn’t a counsellor. There was a time I thought this made her less caring, but I discovered it was the secret to her strength. She never had lunch with any of the rest of us. She was not part of the convivial camaraderie that the rest of us enjoyed. She kept to herself. But from time to time, she would stop by my office to talk and to acknowledge. She was a puzzle to me. I remember once when she came into my office and she sat down. She was quiet at first, and then she told me how glad she was that I had become part of the team. She told me that she admired that I always spoke up for what I believed in, no matter the outcome – that for me, everything was about justice and doing what was right. I gloried in that moment – that recognition. So much so, that I let it define me for years. I felt I had to be that person and that it was my obligation to fight for justice like a lack-lustre superhero.

    And then there was Evelyn. She was Chairman of the Board, and a corporate shrike from hell. She and I shared no common ground. From her perspective, I never knew my place. I did not bow down to her as she entered the room. I did not kiss her ass incessantly, or ever for that matter, so that she could feel good about herself. Evelyn was a short round troll of a woman, with a blonde bob that never bounced playfully. It framed a cruel face and small dark eyes that could look right through you. She, I do not miss. (or is that her? My education seems to have abandoned me!)

    Anna was a God-send. She taught me so many valuable lessons. She was a gentle woman, with kind eyes and a great sense of humour. Her positivity was palpable! I had expected her office to be cave-like, with pillows on the ground where she sat to ponder life’s mysteries. She was our sage guru. She once declared to me that she had never met a woman so confident her abilities and what she could achieve who ahd no confidence in herself. Wow! She packed quite a wallop! I felt stripped bare and ashamed that she saw right through me. I was sure she was sent to help me heal. And that she did.

  • Dsbroussard

    Currenty I’m not getting much work however on occasion i work with someone doing tree work. He talks alot about how the goverment is try to take from him and he gets real angry and often tells me he fears they will come and get him over the health care thingy. He dosen’t want to pay in. But as of now he has no insureace and uses goverment funds to get health care when he needs it. I try to point out the the humor of the siduation but he only gets angry. So for the most part i just do my work and try my best to stay out of the whole politics thing cause i’ve noticed people get very angry. Also he is not one i would want to get to raled up as he is about 330 and 6’4. So’s I let it slide. I find myself bitiing my tounge alot cause i need the work and his so damn big i would cetainly not wish to fight him. Also I am a lover not a fight or at least i’m trying to be. Learning to keep my thinking to myself. its not easy I sorta like talking and getting a good flow going but often I find myself saying the wrong things. Working hard on it these days, learning to leave that damn white whale alone. Lots of learning and many things to paractise on cause i’m really no different I have my own tender spots and absertatys.

    Yes I can’t spell.
    But it felt good to write.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Way to get it on the page!

  • Dsbroussard

    Currenty I’m not getting much work however on occasion i work with someone doing tree work. He talks alot about how the goverment is try to take from him and he gets real angry and often tells me he fears they will come and get him over the health care thingy. He dosen’t want to pay in. But as of now he has no insureace and uses goverment funds to get health care when he needs it. I try to point out the the humor of the siduation but he only gets angry. So for the most part i just do my work and try my best to stay out of the whole politics thing cause i’ve noticed people get very angry. Also he is not one i would want to get to raled up as he is about 330 and 6’4. So’s I let it slide. I find myself bitiing my tounge alot cause i need the work and his so damn big i would cetainly not wish to fight him. Also I am a lover not a fight or at least i’m trying to be. Learning to keep my thinking to myself. its not easy I sorta like talking and getting a good flow going but often I find myself saying the wrong things. Working hard on it these days, learning to leave that damn white whale alone. Lots of learning and many things to paractise on cause i’m really no different I have my own tender spots and absertatys.

    Yes I can’t spell.
    But it felt good to write.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Way to get it on the page!

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  • Calvin

    I disagree.. Quantity is quantity, but many quantity people keep making the same mistakes and never learnt to master their ability.. But the question being open ended contains many different levels.. I would rather say, Quantity is more for practice. At the early stage of knowledge, we can’t have quality, we need to try many times, so we can see perspective on all the different angles.. But once we learnt enough from quantity, we will need to develop quality in our work. The progression works this way, Quantity lvl 1> Quality lvl 1> Quantity lvl 2> Quality lvl 2 etc etc.. When given challenges where the time given allowed makes us choose between Quantity vs Quality, that’s where we have to strategize, what is more important, we place out quality, what is less important, we have quantity.. priority management..

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Interesting ideas here, Calvin. I agree with your point that quantity alone isn’t enough. There has to be a focus on quality, or else you’ll never improve. This situation is unique, too, in that the quantity students still had a teacher who was giving specific feedback based on the quality of their work. Perhaps a better way to put it would be “quantity with a coach.”

      But your idea about leveling up is intriguing and probably true. There does seem to be a cycle here, almost like a wave, of learning then applying.

  • Calvin

    I disagree.. Quantity is quantity, but many quantity people keep making the same mistakes and never learnt to master their ability.. But the question being open ended contains many different levels.. I would rather say, Quantity is more for practice. At the early stage of knowledge, we can’t have quality, we need to try many times, so we can see perspective on all the different angles.. But once we learnt enough from quantity, we will need to develop quality in our work. The progression works this way, Quantity lvl 1> Quality lvl 1> Quantity lvl 2> Quality lvl 2 etc etc.. When given challenges where the time given allowed makes us choose between Quantity vs Quality, that’s where we have to strategize, what is more important, we place out quality, what is less important, we have quantity.. priority management..

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Interesting ideas here, Calvin. I agree with your point that quantity alone isn’t enough. There has to be a focus on quality, or else you’ll never improve. This situation is unique, too, in that the quantity students still had a teacher who was giving specific feedback based on the quality of their work. Perhaps a better way to put it would be “quantity with a coach.”

      But your idea about leveling up is intriguing and probably true. There does seem to be a cycle here, almost like a wave, of learning then applying.

  • ismael

    dear Joe bunting i was reading Calvin comments and i agree with him and i also agree with your examples. I also wanted to tell you about what i learn from history class about quantity vs quality, sorry if i’m a little off topic. In history class i learn that in WW2 soviet russia was way behind in term of technology and highly trained army and Nazi germany had all the technology and had the greatest train army in the world (in its time). BUT! Nazi germany lacks of one advantage that soviet russia has, numbers. At the height of WW2 nazis germany had only 12,000,000 troops and soviet russia had 33,000,000 troops which is the reason why soviet russia defeated nazi germany. Joseph stalin said “quantity has a quality all its own.” despite that he is worse than hitler i agree with his qoute because of many reason. One if look at the business world it “kinda” follow with Joseph stalin qoute. For example look at Mcdonald. If you Compare Mcdonald with a five star restaurant obviously five star restaurant has higher quality. But Mcdonald makes 100 times the profits than a five star restaurant because of their quantity food.
    Like Joseph Stalin said “quantity has quality all its own.”

  • ismael

    dear Joe bunting i was reading Calvin comments and i agree with him and i also agree with your examples. I also wanted to tell you about what i learn from history class about quantity vs quality, sorry if i’m a little off topic. In history class i learn that in WW2 soviet russia was way behind in term of technology and highly trained army and Nazi germany had all the technology and had the greatest train army in the world (in its time). BUT! Nazi germany lacks of one advantage that soviet russia has, numbers. At the height of WW2 nazis germany had only 12,000,000 troops and soviet russia had 33,000,000 troops which is the reason why soviet russia defeated nazi germany. Joseph stalin said “quantity has a quality all its own.” despite that he is worse than hitler i agree with his qoute because of many reason. One if look at the business world it “kinda” follow with Joseph stalin qoute. For example look at Mcdonald. If you Compare Mcdonald with a five star restaurant obviously five star restaurant has higher quality. But Mcdonald makes 100 times the profits than a five star restaurant because of their quantity food.
    Like Joseph Stalin said “quantity has quality all its own.”

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  • Matt

    Amazing post

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  • http://www.oentre.com/ Ucheseo

    Hello Joe, I believe it all depends on the goal or what you want to achieve. Quality demands more resources, it may take time to fine tune the skills to produce quality but once that’s fixed you have created a unique brand.
    Quality is smart, it’s thorough and special so most people will wait for it. I find this write-up interesting and precise.