There is a scene in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that haunts me. No, it’s not that scene. Or that other one. That book was rife with disgusting scenes that have nothing to do with what I’m talking about. Toward the end of the book, protagonist/journalist Mikael Blomkvist works day and night for a couple weeks feverishly writing. When he’s finished, probably stinking of stale sweat and coffee grounds, he has produced two books. As a writer and narcissist, I could only see this as a powerful indictment of my own productivity. But at least it’s a fictional indictment. Nobody works that quickly on a book of any true substance, right? Right? A new infographic answers this question in a way that’s both validation and a horrible confirmation.
Created by PrinterInks, “How Long Did It Take to Write the World’s Most Popular Books?” reveals the alternately sluggish and cheetah-on-meth-like writing styles of some of our most famous authors. The slim, enduring volume known as Catcher in the Rye took problematic recluse J.D. Salinger a decade to produce, which is proof that sometimes you need to let inspiration simmer (and simmer, and simmer some more.) But damn it if Anthony Burgess didn’t rip through his Clockwork Orange manuscript in just three weeks. Have a look at 28 more timespans in the infographic below, and then try to reconcile your own personal inspiration-to-productivity ratio.