Prolific – Good or Bad?

April 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm (writing) (, , , , , )

I noted a running theme in writer circles lately surrounding the notion that writers write too much, and, as a result, much of what they create is of lesser quality (as Richard Ford would have us believe) so therefore should never be exposed to the reading public. You’ll find essays out there on the matter and in some cases, ironically, those essays ramble on drily with far too many irrelevant comments before getting to their point. In a rather circumspect way, the essayist, perhaps, is supporting their own opinion. That might also be why they feel that way in the first place, subject to that problem themselves. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone suffers from that same affliction.

On the flip-side, you’ll also find writing advice from established veteran writers suggesting that a novice writer *must* write everyday if they aspire to be a great writer and that the whole point of writing something is to have it read, so be sure to refine it and get it out there, once it is written.

So – do we write to our inclinations, and if so, do we share everything we create? – A bit of a conundrum there.

Some writers find it difficult to write every day. They have to push themselves to keep to a routine. They may write in spurts followed by dry spells. Others may require an extra dose of self-discipline to finish what they start, often abandoning their current work mid-stream to stray into one or two new stories, or perhaps even a dozen, without returning to the original tale.

Some, like me, suffer from a mild case of hypergraphia. It’s an addiction and one that is enabled by friends and family who encourage us to write because they don’t like how cranky we get when we don’t. I’m also fortunate enough that I hate leaving things unfinished, so the desire to finalize what I’ve started outweighs the lure of new ideas which are also begging for my attention.

This means I’m very prolific. Is this a bad thing, and should I screen my work, only putting out the very best of what I produce? Well that notion has its own set of problems. How do I decide what is my “best” work. Some of my favourite stories didn’t go over well with about half of my test readers. Some of my stories that my test readers adored got scathing critique from submissions editors. Define “best” – better yet, who gets the privilege of deciding what has merit, and if it is the industry proper, then how will I know what they consider my best work unless I send it all out at some point?

Two things I’ve learned while writing and working at getting published: the first is that if I want to stay happy, I have to ignore the majority of the mess of conflicting information out there and just do what works for me, even if others disagree with it. The second is that the whole process is one big balancing act, and while some people shove extremes and absolutes in your face, the answers lie somewhere in the moderate, middle-of-the-road.

Are being prolific and the resulting output good or bad? Well, I guess that just depends on who you ask.

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1 Comment

  1. Joe Pineda said,

    The thing about being prolific is that it allows you to produce a lot of work, a backlog if you will. However, each one of these stories, poems, novels or anything else you may write need to be properly revised, proofread and edited.

    If you’re patient enough, you can revise everything you write, polish it to its full potential and publish it. But that’s the key issue here: patience. You can turn a terrible draft into a good piece, but you need to have that draft completed first.

    In short, it doesn’t matter how often you write, but how well you’re able to resist publishing things literally straight out of the oven.

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