Starting Out

Starting Out, by Albert Sweigart

“When starting out,” the sculptor said,
“First lay out your tools with care.
And always remember, through and through,
The most important thing is to prepare.”

The sculptor’s tools were neat and ordered,
His studio was well-lit and clean,
He always began by sweeping eleven times,
And sometimes twelve or thirteen.

Centered was an untouched marble block,
His raw, undeveloped masterpiece,
Here is where the magic was made,
On this stone his genius would be released.

“But not so fast,” the sculptor warned,
“Great works don’t just fall from Heaven,
After all, it takes nine months to make a baby,
And sometimes, ten or eleven.”

“Your chisels must be sharp”, he said,
And the sculptor’s could split hairs.
They should be, after all, he spent,
All last week solely on chisel repair.

The week before that, he was browsing the shops,
Eyeing endless parades of tools right closely,
The sculptor would buy one, then return it that day,
But finally had the perfect set… well, mostly.

The hammer he bought was light and sturdy,
A good replacement, he thought, had been long overdue,
But the sculptor was left deeply discontent,
It was fresh, but maybe a little too new?

“Enough with these trifles!” the sculptor exclaimed,
His excitement was beginning to climb,
He put the chisel to the rock,
But then noticed it was close to lunchtime.

He set down his hammer and packed the chisels,
Went down to the local cafe,
The line for panini was very long,
And the sculptor was annoyed at the delay.

The sculptor returned, stomach quite full,
Greeted by the marble block as he crossed the door,
It had waited for him, still silent and patient,
(After all it was a quarter to four.)

The sculptor was sleepy from his meal,
Slow him down the weary drowsiness would,
Such sloppiness helped no one, the sculptor thought,
So maybe a quick nap would be good.

In his dream, the sculptor finally saw,
At last his completed full work,
It was more dazzling than he had ever thought before,
It made the fans and critics berserk.

“What is your secret?” they all cried,
“How can it be that your work is so fine?”
The crowd was quiet in frantic suspense,
And so the sculptor gave them this line:

“If you have eight hours to chop down a tree,
Spend seven sharpening your axe to a shine,
But just in case, to assure your pace,
Sometimes you should spend eight or nine.”

The sculptor woke from his short dream,
And the day was not too late for his chore,
Yet later when he left the studio, and the marble block,
They were just the same as they were the year before.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

6 Responses to “Starting Out”

  1. Daniel Lucraft Says:

    Boy do you know me.

  2. notmuch Says:

    man, did u tap into my brain

  3. Micah Cowan Says:

    When you care a lot about Doing Things Right™, it can be hard to accept that, no matter how much you plan ahead, your design will never be Perfect, and at some point you have to choose the best of the possible choices that you can start in on now.

    It’s taken me a long time to even begin to learn this lesson…

  4. Lulie Says:

    Nice. You must have read this. If you haven’t, I recommend it. :)

  5. Helmi Says:

    How did you know I was procrastinating by going through YouTube videos and eventually clicking the link to your page, instead of working on one of a dozen grand projects??? They’re awesome, by the way, they just.. don’t exist. Oh crap.

  6. Anand Says:

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