On Making Good Work With Hard Work

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“Those who expect that any good poet should proceed by turning out a series of masterpieces, each similar to the last, only more developed in every way, are simply ignorant of the conditions under which the poet must work, especially in our time. The poet’s progress is dual. There is the gradual accumulation of experience, like a tantalus jar: it may be only once in five or ten years that experience accumulates to form a new whole and finds its appropriate expression. But if a poet were content with nothing less than always his best, is he insisted on waiting for these unpredictable crystallizations, he would not be ready for the when they came. The development of experience is largely unconscious, subterranean, so that we cannot gauge its progress except once in every five or ten years; but in the meantime the poet must be working; he must be experimenting and trying his technique so that it will be ready, like a well-oiled fire-engine, when the moment comes to strain it to its utmost. The poet who wishes to continue to write poetry must keep in training; and must do this, not by forcing his inspiration, but by good workmanship on a level possible for some hours’ work every week of his life.” – TS Eliot

This American Life, the podcast by Ira Glass, is tremendous. Listen to it weekly: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Image

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