Quick. What’s the name of Maya Angelou’s autobiography?
If you said, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, you would be right. And wrong.
You see, Ms. Angelou published not one, not two, not even three but she wrote SEVEN autobiographies. She even turned them into a series. Caged Bird is her most famous, but it wasn’t her only.
Before she died, she produced probably hundreds of poems even if Phenomenal Woman and I Rise are among her most famous.
Okay, maybe you’re not a Maya Angelou fan. Some aren’t. That’s fine. What about art: how many Picasso paintings do you think exist? 50? 100? That’s a lot of art for one person to produce? But Pablo started his career as a young man so how many paintings do you think he completed? Can you imagine he did 500? Wow. That would be a lot. Would you change your guess if I told you Picasso didn’t just paint but that he also sculpted and drew? No? Still sticking with your guess? Well chances are that whatever your guess, it would still be on the low side.
Over his lifetime, Pablo Picasso produced over 1800 paintings, 1200 sculptures, 2800 ceramics and a whopping 12,000 drawings, not to mention his tapestry work. Sure, only a few of them are famous but while he was creating them, he probably didn’t know which ones would be popular.
Shakespeare wrote more than 30 plays and over 150 sonnets, even if only a handful of them are done over and over again.
Why am I saying all this?
No one has one single idea their whole life. If you have one good idea, chances are there are several others behind it. Explore those too. True, not all ideas are good ones. But how can you tell whether an idea will work if you never give it the opportunity to do so?
It’s widely assumed that quality and quantity are mutually exclusive concepts – that one must produce a single thing and edit and cut and refine it until it’s perfect. Life doesn’t work that way. In his book, Originals, Adam Grant says:
Quantity is the most predictable path to quality.
Look at the artists who’ve risen to the top of their fields and you’ll notice that most of them have done so on a trail of their past attempts. Whether these past attempts have been successes or failure, is not the point. The point is to keep on trying, to keep on producing, to keep on doing. If you’ve been failing this far, someday, one of your ideas could take off. If you’ve enjoyed moderate success, someday, one of your ideas could be the next big thing.
These days, JoJo Moyes is a hugely popular author because of her novel, Me Before You. Recently, a movie adaptation was even released. But JoJo published about seven books before this one became a hit.
A couple months ago, I published my first short story collection. Since then, I’ve just been playing around with the idea of more stories, not really focused on releasing anything else yet. Now that I’m reading Grant’s book, you best believe I am back at my writing table, working on releasing something else in the next few months. I’m no Picasso but I could surely be the next JoJo Moyes or Maya Angelou. I don’t plan to stop at one.
Imagine if Steve Jobs had stopped with the Macintosh computer? Maybe I’d have an Android phone today. Yikes!
Imagine if Steven Spielberg had called it quits after Jaws was a hit in the 1970s? There might be no E.T., no Indiana Jones, no Jurassic Park, the list goes on.
Imagine if Kanye West had only recorded College Dropout? Well, maybe that would have been for the best…