The Prolificity Thesis

· September 25, 2022

Death, taxes and my need to be pretentious on the internet.

On this gloomy Sunday evening in NYC, all I can think of is that I want to be remembered for being prolific. Over the past year, I have been romanticizing being prolific. I have been wording the same feelings in different ways — “Quantity over quality”, “Continuous iterations”, “Keep building” — all slogans of someone putting obscene throughput on a pedestal.

The more I think about it, the more I sense tinges of hedonism in wanting to get onto the path to prolificity. But more than that, being prolific is an act of humility. A high throughput demands a person to let go of a sense of quality in their work.

In “The Picture of Dorian Grey”, Basil, an artist, paints a picture of Dorian Grey. A picture he is reluctant to share with the world, because it has too much of himself in it. While you, as the reader, may be aghast at the pretentiousness of this comparison, you can’t deny the fact that you too feel that the work you produce has a piece of you in it. Try sincerely writing a letter to someone you care for in two minutes. And then actually send it to them. That anxious uncertain feeling you have when you read out what you wrote in those two minutes, that is your lack of humility. I think now would be a good time to stop attacking the reader for their sensibilities.

As a maker of things — food, code, prose — I regularly find myself aghast at the end result. “This isn’t up to my standards”, I think to myself. But in reality, I am not upto my standards. If my goal is to be prolific, I need to have the humility to be perceived as someone who isn’t good enough.

An illustration of the prolificity thesis.

My admiration for prolific people stems from this core. They got over The humility barrier, a barrier that is hard to cross. It isn’t easy to be associated with work you think is not up to your standards. But me having standards that I am not able to meet is in itself a sign of narcissism. Arrogance some would say.

At this point, it would be worth noting that humility is not the only ingredient that goes into the Prolificity Soup. Unfortunately, I do not know the whole recipe. I know there is a good sprinkling of discipline in there. And weirdly enough, a touch of pride (like the sprinkling of sea salt on a good chocolate cookie).

When (or if?) I find the whole recipe, you shall be the first to know it. Here.

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