Speed, Quality, and Professionalism

Quick question – which is more professional, the ability to deliver a finely crafted novel in a year or a pulpy throwaway novel in a month?

The right answer?  The right answer is not being sure.

This is an issue I wrestle with a lot as I try to understand that ambiguous element people call "professionalism."  Some people can take years to turn out a highly quality product, and others can turn out a less impressive product, but at such a fast rate it's amazing.  Both may be lucrative, both may be beloved in their own way, both demonstrate talent.

In fact, it's not hard to imagine a person capable of doing both long-term epics and short-term guilty pleasures and choosing one or the other.  It takes talent to do things fast as much as it takes to do them very well, and someone may well have the ability to do either.

Or perhaps we can imagine an author capable of writing only long-term, the resulting quality being good, but also the result of a strange limitation that they can't rush.  We can imagine another author who can turn out fast product that may be enjoyable if not high quality – but unable to slow down.

Both speed of producing a work and quality of work produced don't always tell us about the talents of the creator.  They could be choosing only one level of speed/quality to produce deliberately.  They could be limited in the way they work.  What we see is just a fragment of the speed/quality dynamic of many media creators, their chosen quality level and speed level showing only a fraction of what they're capable of.

The person that can make very high quality work fast?  They're the people of great and notable talent.  But I think we can all agree they're kind of rare – and we're back to the fragmentary view.

So go easy on judging media creators – and yourself. The person making guilty pleasure pulp novels may just not be choosing to take the time to do deeper work.  The person making epic films slowly has their pace.  You in fact, have yours.

We all make our choices one way or another.

Steven Savage