I write slow, and I’m okay with that

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I’m a slow writer. I’m so slow that I actually forced a 30-minute time limit on this entry because otherwise I’d take too much time away from my other projects, musingly tapping my pencil on my chin for ages. Actually I’m typing this on my laptop, but the pencil thing was a nice visual effect, yeah? If I actually hand-wrote these things it’d be take me double-ages. Triple-ages! But I’m getting off track.

Yes, I write slow. Other authors hit 3000 words and think it’s not too shabby while I’m over here like, “I WROTE A PAGE! A WHOLE ACTUAL PAGE! WOOOO!”

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There are various factors at play here. One is that I like to craft. I love sculpting an artful sentence, getting its words under my fingernails as I mold and shape. I love it, but it’s certainly time-consuming.

And energy-consuming, which is another factor. I can’t glue myself to the chair and write for hours upon hours. I just. Can’t.

Also I edit as I go. My “first” draft contains multiple drafts within it. I’m continuously re-writing and re-structuring, adding and removing. It’s one holistic process, not step-by-step for me. And while some people like to get the bare bones on the page first, then flesh it out later, I like to get it nice n’ gooey the first go around, then edit to strip away. Everyone has different methods.

I also don’t write every day. (This is a subject for another post, about capital-R “Rules” that authors are commanded to follow but that I don’t believe in.) Sometimes I hit a point where an idea needs to stew. Not to the point where it’s so soggy it disintegrates as soon as it’s out of the pot, but enough that I have time to build the idea or absorb new thoughts and experiences to draw from.

daydream

And you know what? I’m okay with that!

Writing fast has its place. It’s great for people who tend to cripple themselves with perfectionism, where the time spent on one sentence is not an enjoyable act of choice, but one of labor and frustration and “MUST. GET. IT. RIGHT!!” Speed is how you get out of those ruts. It’s about momentum. It’s about not letting yourself stop to scrutinize, because once you stop, you won’t start again.

Speed also matters if you have deadlines. Unfortunately a writer with a deadline has no choice in the matter, except for Douglas Adams who said one of my favorite quotes:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

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Right now I’m in the last third of my novel, so I’ve been a bit more steadfast. For the next few months I’m going to be sticking to a weekly goal of 2000 words, which is quite small by others’ standards but for me is a comfy minimum. I’m also challenging myself to resist editing as I go, instead saving it for the end. That’s tough! But I have a certain date I want to finish by (for a particular reason that I will mention later) so I’m motivated to keep these goals.

Welp, I’m at my 30-minute mark. I’ll close by saying this: There is no wrong way to write. If you don’t need to rush, why rush? But if you want to go fast, go fast. Doesn’t matter, as long as it works!

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In other news, one of my writing group peers, Dirk Sayers, has used a story of mine to springboard this blog post about the nature of Why. Dirk brings up excellent insights about our thirst for neatly resolved answers amid the chaotic whylessness of the universe. I highly recommend the read!

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21 thoughts on “I write slow, and I’m okay with that

  1. You have no idea how good it is to hear about someone else editing as they go along, not being able to churn out a thousand words a day and taking a day off here and there! I feel so much better now! Good on you for finding a rhythm that suits you and then sticking to it – I’m starting (slowly) to understand what makes me tick as a writer and I’m finding that I’m beating myself up a little less because of it. Theres nothing worse than setting impossible targets and coming up short – writing confidence is always a fragile thing so why smash it on your own before you’ve even begun 🙂 I work, I have two kids, I run and (occasionally) I even have other interests and hobbies (shame on me). So finding time to help run a short story site, read and rate stories, read excellent blogs, write my own blog AND write “proper” things is a constant challenge (albeit a fun one).

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    • You churn out a lot of material for your blog though! I’m constantly impressed by your ability to write so many great posts on a regular basis. 🙂 Novels are definitely trickier though, much more involved than separate blog posts – I understand. Is the novel going slow because you feel stuck?

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      • Yeah, blog posts are different because they are little short stories that are just short thoughts I can just spew out.
        And I can get instant feedback from readers. The book on the other hand, is so much more work. It has to be planned and thought out while on the other hand just grinded out so you can get done. It will be so much more rewarding when it is finished though.

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      • I love the creative process, creating characters, different worlds, situations and dialogue, but the organizing and pushing out words and time are my downfalls. I wish I had more time and didn’t have to do it in such small chunks of time. ..

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  2. Every day, I write a thousand words in the Journal That Will Never Be Read. As I write, I never stop to correct a misspelling, I never go back to replace a word or rephrase a sentence. It is just free-writing. I took to doing this after struggling for years to knock out a few words a day.

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      • Exactly. That bugs me a lot, when writers push their own processes on other people, and tsk-tsk when they work differently. I have a post planned for next week about the “writing every day” thing actually. I think it’s great when people have that commitment and that it helps them (like you!) but I’ve run into a few individuals who treat it like an ironclad Rule that all writers must follow. I don’t believe in that kind of pushiness and one-size-fits-all thinking. I like your attitude about it and I’m genuinely glad it’s helped you, because that’s what matters in any writer’s process – that it helps.

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  3. I have the same writing style as you. It can take a long time to write and edit a sentence, to the point of me being happy with it. But I think we might have an advantage over the fast writers…if we edit early then there might well be less to edit later. I know that poet Dylan Thomas was a perfectionist…his style was to chop up words which he’d scatter about his desk and floor and mix them up over months until he came up with what he wanted. I like your idea of setting a timing goal too 🙂

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  4. You, madame, have just sung the song of my writer’s heart! I’m in the process of trying to switch up my modes right now, actually, and find habits that are right for me. I tend to agonize about each sentence as I write it, mostly because I don’t trust myself to write well unless I am SO. DAMN. DELIBERATE. I tend to treat any passage I write like I do those super deliberate sentences, reading over it until I’m bogged down with nitpicking. But the last three weeks, I haven’t let myself look back except when checking continuity (and then I spent two whole days on that >.>), and I’ve suddenly finished a book I’ve been just barely eking out progress on for almost four years…it is surreal, to say the least. The stewing process, like you say, was super necessary though–you gotta just sit on something for a while in some cases. Nothing else for it. I find that if I rush through without a VERY clear goal, I’m so demoralized by the cuts I have to make that I wind up not writing for months.
    Thanks for a great post!

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    • I’m glad you liked the post! Oh dear, that agonizing doesn’t sound fun… I’ve been that writer in my life before, and the self-criticism was really defeating. I had to change my patterns and mentality as well. Now, I still write on the slower side but thankfully it’s not because I’m agonizing. I just like to feel out what I’m writing as I write. I enjoy it. I think it all comes down to what kind of method makes you feel best as you’re writing. I’m glad you were able to find something that helped keep your words flowing – that’s the most important thing! And congrats again on finishing your book!

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  5. I thought I was the only one who did this. I write everyday, but it’s not often for stories that I’m going to send anywhere. I’ll get an idea and there will be a spark and it will vanish for a while. Then suddenly, it’ll be 5 in the morning and I know exactly where the story is going to go. When I see other authors who bang out pages, like you mentioned, I’m like well… here’s my one page. But to see someone else do the same thing I do is a great reassurance! -wipes sweat off brow-

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