As I sip Diet Coke (ick, but it’s late at night and I need to stay awake), I shiver and sneeze. Multiple conflicting deadlines are fast approaching, and my rational and impulsive selves clash.
Work on the story you love! Who cares if it’s not due for a long time? This other stuff is b-o-r-i-n-g!
It’s time to be a grown-up! Stop mucking around, focus on the project due the soonest, and get the blasted thing done.
Wait, wasn’t there something interesting to read online?
And so goes the night life of an overscheduled writer. 🙂
I’ve never met a passionate writer who didn’t procrastinate. Sure, I’ve known good writers who wrote like clockwork. One produced a manuscript six weeks after giving birth to her first child. (Between you and me, I suspect her results were partly based on brilliance but more due to sheer insanity. Oh, yes, and she nursed her baby. No sharing of feeding duty.) Besides a few exceptions, though, the authors I admire most do not churn out books regularly.
We talk about a “slow food” movement where we take time to savor the preparation and eating of food. Where is our much-needed slow writing movement?
I’m currently working on a writing project begun years ago.
As much as I would have loved to complete the project by now, the past few years have taught me much about perseverance, maturity, and priorities.
Every good writer I know faces the same questions from time to time:
Does my writing suck?
Do I lack anything worthwhile to say?
Should I give up?
Does anyone read or care about what I write?
In my experience, the authors who struggle most earnestly with these questions tend to be the most mature and thoughtful in their writing. I don’t mean narcissistic whining (“Poor me, why doesn’t anyone read me?”) but genuine, honest soul-searching. There’s a world of difference between “My life sucks because people don’t read me” and “Does my writing have meaning?”
Because to a writer, “meaning” refers to our self-worth as a person. Words on the page are a bonus.
If you are a slow writer (or a slow member of your vocation), today I invite you to be slower to equate speed with worth. Sometimes we progress slowly because our project is too significant to progress without our full attention. Sometimes projects won’t be finished because we have not yet become the person who is capable of doing so.
A decade ago, I experienced a life event that I intended to put into memoir form. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I produced over one hundred single-spaced pages of manuscript, and I kept writing. I received a commitment from a publisher to publish the final draft.
Ten years later, I have not yet become the person capable of writing that story. And so I grow, and I wait, and I work on becoming that person.
When baking bread, a quick yeast rise produces little flavor. For the richest flavors, we should decrease the amount of yeast, decrease the room temperature, and increase the time for allowing the dough to rise. The dough gives off a slightly sour, tangy scent of fermentation, and the edges of the loaf form a rich crust.
Today, if you are slower than you’d like in achieving one goal or another, I ask you to savor the extended rising time. When your yeast achieves its potential, the deeper flavor will be worth it.
Let your yeast rise.