Marathon or Sprint?

What’s the quickest you have ever created a piece you considered finished (a notorious word, so let’s say published, recorded, performed, painted and dried–uh, abandoned.)? Fourteen minutes, fourteen days, fourteen years?

“The poem came whole and I changed no word. I sent it to the Atlantic Monthly at once.”   Richard Eberhart

“It took me 13 years from notebook to finished poem.” Louis Simpson

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And you?

2 thoughts on “Marathon or Sprint?

  1. It’s strange. I feel like whenever I think of momentum or speed, everything immediately slows, or shuts down. And when I’m working well, when things are flowing, time becomes almost inconsequential, where something that, in real-time, may be clocked in as a long time, because it’s flowing may feel like no time has passed. And the energy expenditure is felt only after completion.

    But this doesn’t answer the question. So, for me, it would depend on the medium. I’ve written songs that come together in a sitting, where the chords, verse and chorus melodies, and even the general thrust of the lyrics have come together very quickly, maybe even the length of the song.

    Writing is much slower. The nonfiction stuff usually moves far more quickly than the fiction stuff by far.

    All of this makes me think about Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Have you read that? It’s an interesting memoir of his where he reflects on his life as a marathon runner and how that dovetails, and not, with his writing.

  2. I would agree this probably depends on the medium for me as well. I’ve had the same experience with writing songs, and poems. I wrote the first draft of a novel I’ve been sending out in about three weeks. I spent a lot longer revising it. I think music always came out the quickest for me, and probably even to the recorded stage, though I tend to tinker with production elements forever. I guess, to stop rambling, the quickest anything came out finished and was published was probably a poem that went through all that in a day. For the most part I try to be a little stingier with my time on anything, though. I’m not the most patient person in the world, but I’m in an ongoing struggle to be so with my work.

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