I was in sixth or seventh grade when my social studies teacher introduced the idea of “quality over quantity” to the class.
As presented to me, the idea was that even though the requirement may be, for example, five sentences, you don’t have to meet that if you put everything you needed to say in three.
This, for me, quickly turned into saying as much as I could in as little sentences as possible.
Suddenly, the personality was gone from any of my writing. Adjectives were reduced to one or two at most, and you couldn’t tell that my writing was mine. It was robotic. It didn’t sound like me.
I think that is all perfectly fine for tests, short essays and other projects, where putting enough information to get the point across is all you really need. Sometimes you have to be professional or formal. That’s all fine and dandy.
However, the problem I’m having now that I’m in college is that I’m having the worst time of my life trying to meet word counts and page minimums for essays in my classes.
Even for those discussion boards that we all know and love, I’m struggling to meet a 200 word or five sentence response requirement because I already said what I needed to say.
It’s more than just that; I’m an English major as well.
So I’m always writing something. And all those somethings have some kind of length requirement. And every single time, I’m repeating what I already said in a different format just to meet the requirement.
Clearly, it’s a vicious cycle.
If we want to go even further (which I do), I am studying Creative Writing.
In my writing, I want to have a distinct style. I want people to read my work and the descriptions of characters, settings and emotions, and feel like they know exactly what I’m talking about.
I want them to have such a distinct image that they are devastated by the movie version of my books.
Now tell me, how I’m supposed to do that when all of my descriptions end up being three sentences max?
How are you supposed to know that this forest is the most magical yet spooky but oddly beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, when that’s the only information you’re getting because the author (me) physically cannot tell you anything else?
It’s quite honestly one of the biggest struggles I have with writing.
I have all these grand ideas in my head about how I want my writing to be, but it just never works out that way. And it all stemmed from that one moment where “quality over quantity” was introduced to me the wrong way.
You see, “quality over quantity” doesn’t mean writing everything you can in as little words as possible. It means that putting forth your best work is always better than putting forth a ton of your okay-ish work.
It means that having ten pages of nothing can’t compare with three pages of good, quality work.
On the other hand, it also means that your best work can be 10 pages, if you choose for it to be.
So, even though I will continue to struggle with those word/sentence/page requirements, I’m relearning what “quality over quantity” should mean to me.
Even though something is a lot or maybe even not enough doesn’t make it any less, as long as you are proud and you think it’s enough.