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  • Writer's pictureRobert Sadler

Quantity is always about perception.

Updated: May 1





Perhaps the Three Dog Night’s song: “One Is The Loneliest Number” made a seminal statement of perception when it’s first stanza proclaimed: 


One is the loneliest number 

that you'll ever do

Two can be as bad as one

its the loneliest number

since the number one


And yet One is the easiest number to see… it stands, sits, or lays all by itself and thus could very well be ‘the loneliest number…” if numbers had feelings.


The singular is remarkable for its oneness, whereas everything else is a plural of or multiples of something.


Where is this fuzzy logic headed. 


An artist with one painting, a poet with one poem, a sculptor with only one sculpture (unless it’s Michelangelo’s 'David' or his 'Pieta', but obviously he didn’t stop at one), a composer of one song, a director of one movie, or an author of one book is not considered prolific.


The question becomes one of perception. “How many of something created does it take to create the perception of being or having been prolific?”


For the creative person, there is almost always someone who has produced more creative works than oneself. And against that person, or even the persons ahead of that one, one cannot perceive of being either prolific on one’s own or more critically, when compared with others who have been producing longer and or in greater quantity.


Like many things quantity is measured against something else and that comparison produces the quantifiable amount required to be considered prolific in someone’s perception.


The question then needs to be answered by an outside source using their perception, not that of the (little ‘c’) creator.


As I approach the completion of my 30th novel, I could not have imagined when I published my first novel in 2008, that over the next 16 years I would publish another twenty-nine novels.


That said, measured against my author friend, Harvey Stanbrough who has published over 85 novels, in about half that time; and author, Dean Wesley Smith, who has been writing for 40 years and has published over 200 novels… I am not prolific.


I am just thankful that the creative ideas keep flowing and the characters keep whispering their stories in my ears.


Another perception outside my control as author is that of my place in the writing world. That is a barometer at which I can only guess… and since I am the first to ‘hear’ the stories my character’s tell, I am satisfied with the place those stories hold in my personal library.


Any library is a reflection of its curator’s likes, dislikes, needs, aims and goals. I am fortunate to have a reader who is, by the size of his alphabetically arranged personal library, a prolific reader, fan and connoisseur of thousands of novels and hundreds of authors.


Thus it has been quite gratifying and humbling to not only connect with him but to find he so enjoys my character’s stories that my books have been accorded space (among the shelves of his favorite authors whose last names begin with the letter ‘S’) in his personal library side-by-side with many other more well-known authors. 


I am humbled and honored that my books occupy two-plus shelves in this amazing A to Z library of fiction writers. Thank you to 'BL' for this photograph of part of your library. [See below] 



P.S. Lest the previous sounded like a “Rage against the dying of the light.”* Where quantity in and of itself does not speak to quality, a totally different subjective state of being, there does exist a lexicon for the limitation of writers.


In praise of its quality, such as Harper Lee’s singular** book To Kill A Mockingbird, a celebrated, best-selling and Pulitzer Prize winner, it’s fame and notoriety as well as its adaptation as a stage play and movie, gave it the lasting imprimatur of quantity, ergo, prolificacy. 


While other best-selling writers, in the age of big New York imprints, had to suffer the limitation of only being allowed to offer up a new novel annually. Thus these best-selling authors, with perhaps distinguished twenty-year writing careers, might only publish twenty novels.


Quelle horreur, one can only imagine the wonderful stories these writers might have brought forth had their publishing minders published their work as fast as these writer could write them.


I assume that some writers felt no compunction to “Rage against the dying of the light.* by bucking the annual deadline for submission of their next manuscript—destined for the best-seller list.


However some notable writers found a work-around. They employed a seeming subterfuge and wrote under pseudonyms telling different stories with different characters, sometimes in the same, but often in different genres. All in order to let their writing talent achieve its pinnacle of quantity, whatever that might be. Those writer’s became prolific in spite of the limitations placed on them.


So much for the conundrum of quality vs quantity. They do not have to be at loggerheads, they can be one and the same thing, or not.


*[line borrowed from Dylan Thomas’ poem Do not go gentle into that good night.]

** In a 2011 interview with an Australian newspaper, Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts said Lee was living in an assisted-living facility, was using a wheelchair, partially blind and deaf, and suffering from memory loss. Butts also shared that Lee told him why she never wrote again: "Two reasons: one, I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again.” [From wikipedia which quoted: Toohey, Paul (July 31, 2011). "Miss Nelle in Monroeville"The Daily Telegraph. Sydney, NSW, Australia. Retrieved August 8, 2011.]


In July 2015, just previous to Ms. Lee’s death in February 2016, her second book, Go Set a Watchman, was published from a manuscript that may have been the precursor to what became Mockingbird, given its similarities.

~

I have often said about writing, “as a writer I say what I want to say, how I want to say it.” And I suppose, as coda, Harper Lee added: “and I will not say it again”


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Robert Sadler
Robert Sadler
30 Nis

Thank you, Harvey. I always appreciate your perspective and perception. And I will accept that I am a prolific writer. And yes, it is "wonderful fun!"

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Harvey Stanbrough
Harvey Stanbrough
30 Nis

VERY cool, Robert! I've always considered you a prolific fictionist. You also are a prolific poet. And photographer. I suspect book shelves would collapse under the weight of your several-volume Collected Poems. :-)


Anyway, my own definition of a prolific fiction writer is one who regularly puts out stories (regardless of length), according to his or her own schedule. A writer writes. It's just that simple.


And isn't it wonderful fun!


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