churning out the pottery

Some days it’s hard to write these posts. Partly for a lack of ideas but mostly because the topics I could or would want to write about might seem pointless or inflammatory, even if barely anyone will read them.

It’s mostly the imposter syndrome sort of thing, I actually have loads of ideas and a poor finishing muscle.

Developing my finishing muscle was one of the reasons for doing these every day. To get over finishing and become someone who ships.

Soon I’ll have to ship my book. This is another source of anxiety, partly because I feel like I need to do a lot of other work around it. Edit my site, prepare my marketing properly, get over my dislike of selling myself.

The other reason for writing the posts is to improve my actual writing. Although most of them are dashed off in some respect, I enjoy the more conversational tone I tend to take. Also, the quantity should eventually lead to some improvement. Like an NBA player taking jump shots or a chef cooking dishes, eventually my poorly jacked 3s and my badly poached eggs will become mini masterpieces.

At least that’s the theory. Here are some widely quoted examples of the value of aiming for quantity.

In his book Art and Fear, David Bayles shares the anecdote of a pottery teacher who conducted an experiment, where he divided his students into two groups.

One group were assessed on the quality of the work they produced whilst the other would be marked on the quantity. The first group were aiming to make the best pot possible - the second were aiming to make as many as possible.

The best results came from the second group who adopted a very tech approach to art, moving fast and breaking things as they iterated and improved with each design while the first group got to indulge their inner artistes and spend hours refining their one ‘perfect’ pot.

It turns out that some great artists take the quantity route, with my favourite being Pablo Picasso and his 20,000 artworks. Some of them were surely bullshit but he’ll be remembered for the ones that change hands for millions of dollars, the ones that sit in the world’s most famous galleries and the ones that changed our perceptions of what art was or could be.

Now I’m no Picasso. I’ve got more hair, less talent and a far smaller portfolio of artistic experiments.

For the moment though, I’m churning out the pottery.

Ben Mercer