Monday, 15 August 2011
In search of the secret of quickness, I started with a Malcolm Gladwell passage that's always piqued me. InOutliers, he discusses the now famous 10,000-hour rule—the amount of time it takes to achieve true mastery—and quotes the neurologist Daniel Levitin: "In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concern pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again." Fiction
Hunched over my keyboard, I'm haunted by anecdotes of faster writers. Christopher Hitchens composing a Slate column in 20 minutes—after a chemo session, after a "full" dinner party, late on a Sunday night. The infamously productive Trollope, who used customized paper! "He had a note pad that had been indexed to indicate intervals of 250 words," William F. Buckley told the Paris Review. "He would force himself to write 250 words per 15 minutes. Now, if at the end of 15 minutes he hadn't reached one of those little marks on his page, he would write faster." Buckley himself was a legend of speed—writing a complete book review in crosstown cabs and the like.
I remember, too, a former colleague who was blazingly fast. We would be joking at lunch—"Imagine if David Foster Wallace had written a children's book"—and there it would be in my inbox, 15 minutes later. Not a perfect draft, but publish-it-on-your-blog good. He could sit down at the keyboard and toss off Chopin or Ragtime, while I was banging away at Chopsticks and making lots of mistakes. Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-du-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-du-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-DAH!
It's no secret that writing is hard … but why can't I be one of those special few for whom it comes easily? What am I doing wrong? Why haven't I gotten any faster?
Read the entire article at http://www.slate.com/id/2301243