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Writing - Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width

By Lexi Revellian @LexiRevellian

Writing - never mind the quality, feel the width

Lucie Rie conical bowl, 1978

I want to start with a quote from Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall. In this bit Paul Pennyfeather is having problems with discipline as a teacher in his first class at a ghastly school. Another teacher, a child molester called Captain Grimes,  gives him a cane and leaves him to it.

"Listen," he said. "I don't care a damn what any of you are called, but if there's another word from anyone I shall keep you all in this afternoon."

"You can't keep me in," said Clutterbuck; "I'm going for a walk with Captain Grimes."
"Then I shall very nearly kill you with this stick. Meanwhile you will all write an essay on 'Self-indulgence'. There will be a prize of half a crown for the longest essay, irrespective of any possible merit."
From then onwards all was silence until break. Paul, still holding his stick, gazed despondently out of the window. Now and then there rose from below the shrill voices of the servants scolding each other in Welsh. By the time the bell rang Clutterbuck had covered sixteen pages, and was awarded the half-crown.
"Did you find those boys difficult to manage?" asked Mr Prendergast, filling his pipe.
"Not at all," said Paul.

Apart from its refreshing lack of political correctness of any kind, this extract contains a writing tip: stop trying so hard and just get on with it. Even if no one is offering you a half crown.

In Art and Fear, Ted Orland and David Bayles tell the story of a ceramics teacher who told his class that half of them would be graded on the quantity of pots they created and the other half on the quality. At the end of the term, the results were interesting. Freed from the pressure of straining for excellence, making good and bad pots, practicing and learning from their mistakes, it was the quantity group who produced the best pots.

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