May 3, 2021

I quantify almost nothing in my life


Every time I give a presentation to a group of businesspeople, somebody inevitably asks me how many books have been sold.

And of course, I have no idea. Inventory management isn’t my thing. Besides, since so many thousands of copies have been gives away, stolen and downloaded over the past twenty years, it’s literally impossible to quantify.

But that’s not my concern. I am in the business of making art, not measuring it.

Doctorow, a favorite writer of my generation, published a captivating essay about this very issue. His theory is:

Creators should think like dandelions. The dandelion doesn’t follow all its seeds to make sure they get steered in the right direction and have their mittens and a packed lunch with them. Almost every seed a dandelion tosses into the wind is going to die without taking root, but that’s not what matters to the dandelion. They don’t care that every seed survives, they care that every opportunity to take root is exploited. A successful dandelion is one colonizes every crack in the sidewalk, not one that successfully plants all its seeds.

And so, our job as creators isn’t to worry about having a single, central repository for our works so we can easily count copies and figure out where they’re going. Because dandelions don’t keep track of their seeds.

But once we learn to get past the vanity of knowing exactly how many copies have been made and sold and shared and find the zen of knowing that the reproduction will take care of itself, we’ll attain dandelionesque contentment.

Proving, that the best way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas.

Aim for volume, not victory. And trust the process to take care of itself.

Are you in the business of making art or measuring it?

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