Is Productivity a Writer’s True Currency?

Question: Is productivity the true currency of a writer? 

Walter Mosley: You know, it’s funny.  One wouldn’t want to say that what makes a good writer is the number of books that the writer wrote because you could write a whole number of bad books.  Books that don’t work, mediocre books, or you know, there’s a whole bunch of people in the pulp tradition who have done that.  They just wrote... and actually they didn’t write a whole bunch of books, they just wrote one book many times.  

But even if she wrote a different book every time, if they’re not good books, then you can’t say this is a good writer because he or she wrote a whole lot of books.  On the other hand, when you go to another form, like for instance painting, you talk about painters and you talk about painters painting masterpieces.  There is no painter who painted only one painting and that was a masterpiece.  You have to do a whole bunch of paintings to get to the place of mastering your craft.  And so the idea of being productive, the idea of producing many books is going to lead you toward becoming a better and... can lead towards you becoming a better and better writer.  

So, no, purely the idea of writing a lot of books doesn’t make you a great writer, but it might be that the process of doing a lot of writing will make you a much better writer.

Recorded November 10, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler

"There is no painter who painted only one painting and that was a masterpiece," says Mosley. But that doesn’t mean you can write a lot of bad books and still be a good writer.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.