Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Quantity v Quality

I've spent lots of time this summer with friends and family; them visiting me, me visiting them. It's been fun, even the two nights I spent on a slowly expiring single lilo with the bedding rigged up from a double sheet and a scratchy, winter-weight sleeping bag. But some of my friends and family didn't go in for uncomfortable nights. They instead booked hotels and B&Bs and joined the hosts at pre-arranged times. They had quality time, not quantity time.

They may have had a good nights sleep, but I feel that they missed out on the full experience. They missed out on hanging around waiting for everyone else to decide what to do (difficult when you're talking about organising 4 multi-generational families). I had some good chats then. They also miss out on the opportunities for surprising revelations - someone confessed to relationship difficulties over the fruit and veg counter in Morrisons, and there was a late night heart to heart with a friend of a friend I'd never really noticed much before.

So lots of hanging around not doing much, but with the occasional flash of pure gold, versus bursts of rather controlled quality time where things were done on the grown-ups terms.

I can't say which is preferable for family and friends, but in terms of writing I know where I stand. Quantity beats quality every time. If you write, and write, and write you risk some of it being utter tripe, but you also gain the unexpected thread of gold running through the dross. If your writing time is controlled, you risk getting hardly any done - good or bad.

I appreciate that not everyone has unlimited time at their disposal and, for some, their writing time is perforce limited by circumstances. But you usually have lots of thinking time available (waiting for trains, walking the dog, cleaning, doing the washing up, knitting...) so when your writing time comes, splurge it all out on the page. Don't worry about the quality of what you're writing, just get it written. You can always sort it out later.


Fiona Faith Maddock said...

I agree. I wouldn't have agreed with you two years ago, before I finished (round of applause) my debut novel. I had always assumed it was better to wait for inspiration before you began a writing session, but with experience I've found that if you start writing (however dull you feel), the good stuff will emerge. The process itself produces the brilliance, not when expected, and not all at once, but it does come out.

Sarah Duncan said...

Or, as Alan Bennett said, "You don't know what you're writing until you've written it".