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January 15th, 2020
Quantity has a quality all it’s own.
Look at the famous composers. Guys like Beethoven and Bach, and compare just the quantity of work they produced to mediocre composers of the same time. Our famous composers didn’t simply produce more work as one might guess. Not just 10 times as much as other mediocre composers. The ones we consider brilliant –on average- produced 100 times as much music as the average composer.
Now consider this fact in terms of a composer’s best 10%. Let’s say a mediocre composer produces 10 pieces of music. The top 10% of their canon is going to be just one peice.
But our so called ‘genius’ composers will have produced 100 times as much, which means they have 1,000 pieces of music to pick from. What’s the top 10% of a 1,000? That’s right, our brilliant composers have 100 pieces of music that they can point to as the best of the best they’ve produced.
Sheer quantity in this case creates the space needed to have a diverse range among the best 10%.
For the mediocre composer, it’s impossible to have any range or diversity among your best work, when your top 10% is only one song.
For writers and creators of all types, the potential to hit upon something really good goes up the more work they produce. Quality is more likely to emerge with quantity, whereas if someone focuses just on quality, they might not produce either.
But there’s a third edge to this sword. The more work that a creative produces, the larger the base of mediocre stuff they’ve likely produced. Of course mediocre in this sense should be limited to just their cannon of work. It’s mediocre in comparison to the creative’s top 10%, not necessarily in comparison to other creatives.
The third edge has to do with initial exposure. If a random person dives randomly into their body of work, the likelihood that they encounter one of the best pieces goes down as the creative produces more and more work. Surely the top 10% grows to include more, but this 10% is most likely becoming diluted. As the quantity of work increases, the percentage to look at for the best shrinks.
For the composer who has only produced 10 pieces of music, it’s simply not possible to regard the best 5% of their work because that would be half a piece of music.
And for a composer who has produced 1,000 pieces of music, wading through 100 pieces of music that comprises the top 10% is quite a lot. It’s more realistic to look at the top 1% of work by a creative that has produced a 1,000 pieces. With this more realistic shifting percentage of the best, it means that 99% of that creative’s work is comparatively mediocre.
And with that, it’s probably best to keep in mind that Tinkered Thinking has a Most Popular section on the website. The probability that a random day’s episode is going to be one of the best grows lower every day as episodes emerge.
Tinker Thinking will soon introduce a solution to this issue beyond the Most Popular section. Subscribers will soon have access to private podcast feeds that feature only the best material, along with serial episodes that treat a single topic at depth. So if you enjoy this sort of material and you haven’t yet signed up. Take a moment at TinkeredThinking.com to subscribe.
This episode references Episode 411: Quality of Quantity