So. Sam Smith has written the theme song to the new James Bond film, Spectre. A Guardian article about the piece includes his claim that he wrote the lyrics in about 20 minutes.
That’s not long. So what are we to understand by that claim? I have a few options.
First, it is a boast as to the supreme efficiency of his muse, that a splendid song comes ‘just like that’. (Not that I know it is splendid, the splendour comes as part of the claim.) Mr Smith was inspired and, like Coleridge waking from his dream to write Kublai Khan, dashed down the lyrics as fast as the muse dictated.
Secondly, it could mean the lyrics are unimportant bosh which Mr Smith bodged together on the back of an envelope when he needed something to go with the tune (rumty, tumty something love, rumty, tumty blah blah glove).
Thirdly, it could be that, as someone who primarily writes poetry, I don’t understand the song writing process, and maybe twenty minutes is a really long time to spend on lyrics.
I’m not sure I’m competent to judge on which of those is true, but I tend towards the first, as I don’t think he is implying ‘I just put any old crap down on the page’.
In the end, speed of composition should be an irrelevance to appreciating the work; of no more value than knowing a favourite author wrote in green ink (Paulo Neruda), or on recycled envelopes (Dickinson), or naked (allegedly Victor Hugo), or standing up (Kierkegaard, Woolf). Our desire to know that, and all the other features are part of the cargo cult of creativity: if I do it how she did then I can get the same results. And that really is bosh.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to write (Scrivener, standing up and clothed). So far it’s taken about 400 hours. Unfortunately, that is no guarantee of its quality.