Two random stories are percolating* in my brain today, doing that coffee bean and hot water thing where alone each story is what it is but together maybe they make something better, maybe even something caffeinated and delicious.

*Percolating felt like a thesaurus word, the kind of thing I come up with when I’m over-tired and trying too hard, but in fact, in this case, I really mean it. These two stories are turning into coffee in my brain.

The first was Is $500,000 the new midlist? from Rachel Aaron. I know that it’s meant to be inspirational, that it’s meant to drive writers to believe that we can make it, too, that a living wage (plus a whole lot more!) is within our grasp, but… well, I found it depressing.

A short and personal digression: this weekend I had a lovely lunch with R. He has ruled out a semester abroad for his junior year because it will cost too much, making the third time recently where we’ve had a conversation about money where it’s clear that he’s worrying a lot. I said to him, “I could get a real job again,” to which he said, more or less, “No, this is my choice, I’m not willing to spend that much money for that experience,” but this perhaps explains part of why discovering that I’m nowhere close to the “new midlist” was more depressing than inspiring.

The second story showed up on my tumblr feed, and I’ve seen it before, but somehow today it clicked. It’s a parable about quantity vs quality, generally sourced to a book called Art and Fear. I haven’t read the book, although clearly I should, but the short version of the story is that a ceramics instructor splits the class into two groups. One group is being graded on the quantity of their work; the other half is being graded on the quality. At the end of the semester, the best work doesn’t come from the people focusing on quality but on those focusing on quantity. They produced more work and sure, maybe their first ten pots weren’t as good as the single pot created by the quality-oriented students, but their hundredth pot was distinctly better. That’s paraphrased, but the rough idea.

So my coffee thought — I need to go back to writing fast and letting go, the way I did when I was writing fanfiction. Not because I want to deliver dreck into the universe but because I have two goals and those goals — well, they’re the coffee. My first goal is still to improve, to become a better writer, but I need to believe that I’ll improve faster purely by writing more words. The second goal is to be able to learn a living at this, which also means writing faster. The new midlist author has published 12 books in her three years, compared to my three.

Now the question becomes — how do I do that? The first step, I think, should be starting to post my daily work on fictionpress again. It’s not going to be polished, it’s going to be the first outpourings, the 1000 words that circle around what I want to say and fumble toward some action, where the characters babble on and digress and weave back-and-forth. But that’s okay, because the more words I write, the more I learn, and the better the stories become, one way or another.

Yesterday’s breakfast: spinach salad, with chopped-up Gala apple, slices of chicken sausage, roasted brussels sprouts, and shredded Irish white cheddar cheese, topped with balsamic vinegar. I’m paying the price for the cheese in congestion today, but it was worth it.