“If we are walking in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” Buddhist Saying
“It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” Confucius
Ancient wisdom for modern times! When everything around is urging us to do the opposite, it’s heartening to know, isn’t it, that we have it on good authority that going slowly and simply walking on can be a successful strategy?
Just think of all the words and phrases that push us in the opposite direction and want to turn us into speed demons: “instant gratification,” “go faster,” “hurry up,” “get it done,” and “move on” – just to name a few.
Certainly, there’s a lot to be said for simply throwing a story down on paper and quickly getting the bones of it down on paper – and then going back and revising. That headlong rush from beginning to end can be very satisfying and motivating.
And yet, there can be so many advantages to resisting all this acceleration and writing at our own pace and in our own good time. As I think about working on my children’s novel and the time it’s taken for my story to grow and ripen into something much fuller than I started with, I realize that one of the best decisions I’ve made (or that was made for me, since I’m a pantser, not a plotter), is that I decided not to rush it. A few of the benefits:
The plot evolved: Being a pantser, I started my story with just a handful of characters and an inciting incident. Building a plot was tough and in my early drafts, it was clumsy and jerryrigged. But as my story ripened, the bones of the plot emerged and it finally started growing organically. If I had worked out the entire plot ahead, I’m not sure it would feel as if it flowed from my characters’ actions.
New characters cropped up: As my story took shape over time, new characters cropped up and minor characters grew to play larger roles. Giving these new players a voice and meaningful actions has been one of the most exciting and fun-filled aspects of developing my story. They’ve added so much to it!
Themes became clearer: As is so often true, I started out with a vague idea of what the core drivers of my story were: just glimpses here and there. But as time went on, the real themes became clearer and began to drive the story.
Sometimes going fast makes total sense: the urgent, headlong drive to create is a joyful experience and one to be treasured. But it’s also good to remind ourselves that going slowly can be an equally fruitful approach (see Slow Writing). So if a “slow notion” seems to be calling you, it may be wise to listen to its quiet song.
Do you find that “slow motion” improves your writing? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Write on!