Poetry essay: How much time should be spent writing a poem?

A question that can come up for a poet is, “How much time should be spent writing a poem?”

You may have heard poets say that they spent months on a poem.  You may have heard some say that they wrote something in five minutes.  You may have heard everything in between.

As a writer, you may have had experience with this yourself.  Maybe you write some poems that take a few minutes each and you write other poems that still don’t feel right after thinking about them for hours.

A question that may come up then is, how long should you be spending writing a single poem?

Unfortunately, like most questions, there isn’t one answer.  It’s not like someone could tell you that you should spend 15 minutes.  It depends on the situation.

In some cases, you may want to spend very little time on a poem.

For example, there is the idea, that if something isn’t flowing, that you should stop and change to something else.  If you are writing a poem, and twenty minutes later, it still isn’t working, you might think about stopping it and writing something else.

As another example, you might be submitting poems to magazines.  Given the reality of the situation, you may have to write and send a lot of poems to get a few published.  Because of this, efficiency might be of value.  If you find that you have to write and submit 100 poems to get 10 published, you might find that you can’t spend too much time on those 100 poems.

As another example, maybe you write many poems that are about light or impersonal subjects.  You might find that they are fine written in a just a few minutes each.  You might not see too much value in spending too much time on them.

As you think about how much time to spend on a poem, it is important to remember that quality and time spent aren’t always directly related.  Something that took two hours to write isn’t necessarily going to be better than something that took two minutes to write.

In other cases, you might want to spend more time on a poem.

Somethings a poet writes about are very personal.  If something is extremely important, you might want to spend more time on it to make sure it is right and says what you want to say.

In another example, imagine something you write is going to be public, very lasting or in some sense singular.  Imagine you are getting to have a poem posted in a public space and it will be there for a long time.  Or imagine you get to have just one poem in an anthology.  In these cases, you might want to spend more time on what you write.  It might not mean you spend all that time writing one poem.  You may write many or you may spend a lot of time thinking about or revisiting a poem.  Given the weight of what you are doing though, you might feel it is important to give what you are doing the proper time.

When deciding how much time to spend on a poem you should take different things into account and make a decision that fits the situation.  Sometimes you’ll decide that five minutes is enough, other times you feel that five hours isn’t.  It all depends on the situation.