One Lousy Minute? 14


We dipped down the dark highway, she picked at her cleats, and fixed up her hair. She rubbed her muscles and checked her gear. I listened.

Lincoln,” the movie, is arriving in theaters, the honey-toned voice of Scott Simon told me. Then he introduced the story on American composer John Williams, who wrote the soundtrack for the movie. Williams might be the most well-known composer, for his soundtracks for blockbuster movies. I don’t know anything about music except what I like and don’t like. It’s difficult not to respect a man for a consistently outstanding performance.

I listened as he explained what it was like to work with cinematic greats like Spielberg, how it felt to be so wildly celebrated at his 80th birthday celebration this summer, and what his composing days are like.

One point sounded in my head, and I can’t decide if I felt reassured or scared out of my socks by what he said.

These days, I probably will get as much as a minute done or a minute and a half done in a day,” he says. “It’s a good day.

One minute. Or perhaps thirty seconds longer.

Some of us are in the throes of NaNoWrimo. Still others are polishing their book proposals. More of us are querying agents or trying to decide if we have the chops to make it as a writer, whatever that means.

What do you think, writers? Is one sentence worth a full day of effort?
Parents, is one shining maternal/paternal moment worth the eye rolling and the sassy pants back talk?
Runners, is one golden  mile worth the ones tarnished with pain or inconsistency or a lumbering gait?
Readers, does one fine set of words set your heart spinning?
Business dudes and ladies, is one fantastic deal or spreadsheet or data set worth the irritating boss and the colleague making chest clearing snot noises in the next cubicle?

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14 thoughts on “One Lousy Minute?

  • Sara B

    Speaking to the ones that apply to me: parent, runner, reader, business lady; YES! A thousand times yes! (name that move) Except maybe the business one. Those singular moments, that’s what fuels us to keep going. It’s what tells us we are doing something right. Maybe not all the time, but for that one moment, yes.

  • Ed_Cyzewski

    I think the trick here for writing at least is that the act of doing the work has value, even if you only end up with a sentence or a paragraph you can use. Those sentences and paragraphs will get better if you spend the time writing stuff you won’t use.

  • Shawn Smucker

    I’m not so sure that one minute of musical composition equals one minute of work, or is equivalent to a writer putting down one sentence. I would look at it as one minute equals about a fourth of a song, which is more like a fourth of a chapter for a writer. Or maybe a page? I’m not down with the idea that consistently, day after day, I should be happy with one sentence.

    But I like what you’re asking, and I would agree that sometimes, many times, most times, we need to accept that a small amount of work done very well is good enough for today.

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      Well, if he’s talking about an entire soundtrack, it’s equivalent to a sentence or a good phrase, but sure, one minute of a whole song would be a bigger section. Still, the point is not quantity output but quality, composing the thing he hears in his mind. And that a small amount of goodness is worth the tens of thousands of words that don’t work. But now I want to know: why? What makes a sentence or a chapter or a scene worth that much effort?

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      And I’m not sure I’d be happy with a string of days where one good sentence was my zenith. In those days where the words are more like dry heaves, then yes, one solid sentence would be good. Day after day? Don’t know if I could take it.

  • pastordt

    I do think one shining moment is worth a whole heckuva lot. But I would also caution you to remember that John Williams is EIGHTY YEARS OLD. And, speaking purely hypothetically here, of course – things take more time when you’re older. :>)

      • Jennifer Luitwieler

        That’s true, Diana. And that’s a good point. He did state that at his age, his work requires hime to go between his studio and a sound room all day long. That takes time. For anyone. And also, true that he has been honing his work style, ethic, method and craft for a long time. I suppose that means we don’t give up when we have one bad day in our 20s or 50s or 60s?

  • Joe Jestus

    I love that this post took me a minute to read 😉 Beyond that, I think it’s worth it, but only because I think it’s worth it. If that makes sense.

    If it’s something I love, I’ll go to hell and back for even just a little bit of it. It could be that I’m a sappy romantic, but that one minute represents hope to me and hope makes it all worth it.

    I think I once asked a friend would he rather live a long life of mediocrity or a short life of adventure and amazement. That’s a tough one to answer even yet and I don’t know why. Do we aim for quality or quantity?

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      I don’t know if that makes you a sappy romantic. It might make you a wise and caring soul who knows the value of passion. I like the first thing you wrote: it’s only worth it if it’s worth it. I know exactly what you mean. As to quality over quantity, I’d take the former. Any day. Even if it’s hard.