Quantity precedes quality


Found via Dynomight:

Quality over quantity. I often worry that I write too much on this blog. After all, the world has a lot of text. Does it need more? Shouldn’t I pick some small number of essays and really perfect them?
Arguably, no. You’ve perhaps heard of the pottery class where students graded on quantity produced more quality than those graded on quality. (It was actually a photography class.) For scientists, the best predictor of having a highly cited paper is just writing lots of papers. As I write these words, I have no idea if any of this is good and I try not to think about it.

I hadn’t heard this before, but I do find it to be true. Creativity is a habit. The way to quality is through quantity.

John Cleese on where creativity comes from


A brilliantly insightful speech on how to foster creativity . Here's a quick summary:

Now here's the negative thing: Creativity is not a talent. It is not a talent, it is a way of operating…

You see when I say “a way of operating” what I mean is this: creativity is not an ability that you either have or do not have.

It is, for example, (and this may surprise you) absolutely unrelated to IQ (provided that you are intelligent above a certain minimal level that is) but MacKinnon showed in investigating scientists, architects, engineers, and writers that those regarded by their peers as “most creative” were in no way whatsoever different in IQ from their less creative colleagues.

So in what way were they different?

MacKinnon showed that the most creative had simply acquired a facility for getting themselves into a particular mood — “a way of operating” — which allowed their natural creativity to function.

Cleese describes an “open mode” where sort of meander or play with a problem. In open mode, there's no right or wrong. Crucially, it's extremely difficult to be open with time pressure. He tells relays this story about how Alfred Hitchcock would help move his writers into “open mode”:

“When we came up against a block and our discussions became very heated and intense, Hitchcock would suddenly stop and tell a story that had nothing to do with the work at hand. At first, I was almost outraged, and then I discovered that he did this intentionally. He mistrusted working under pressure. He would say “We're pressing, we're pressing, we're working too hard. Relax, it will come.” And, says the writer, of course it finally always did.

Then there is a “closed mode”, where we implement our solution and are rigorous about speed, efficiency, details, and outcomes.

The most creative people as ones who can move most quickly between these two modes.

Cleese then gives 5 tricks for getting yourself into open mode:

  1. Space where you will be undisturbed at least until a specific time.

  2. Time to get into open mode, usually at least 30 minutes, where your mind wants to go back towards execution. Then after about 60 more minutes, usually the most creative time is past and you need a break.

  3. Time to play with the problem, to stick with the discomfort of not having a solution. The most creative people spend the most time in this space of not knowing or considering alternatives before picking a path.

  4. Confidence in yourself, to handle the discomfort of not knowing the answer, and to be wrong as you try things out.

  5. A 22 inch waist (humor) , Cleese's way of reminding us that nothing moves us into open mode faster than humor.

I have bookmarked this to read again in 6 months. Sent to me via the Flux Collective .