Friday, May 20, 2011

Proud of Being Slow

I started a hashtag on Twitter today called #proudofbeingslow. So far, no takers. Which I expected. Because, to be honest, we're not allowed to be slow. To most Americans, being called "slow" is worse than being a trash picker in Indonesia. And I'm not just talking about being dumb, which, I'll admit, it's not ideal to be dumb, but who's to say that someone with a limited mental capacity is "bad", to be held up as an example of what NOT to be? But that's a different talk show.

What I'm talking about is plain old, run-of-the-mill slow. As in: someone who takes their time. Ok, when I say it like that it probably doesn't sound bad to you; of course you should take your time and do something right. But good craftmanship is in direct conflict with the directive to be fast and I'm sorry ladies and gents, but you cannot have it both ways.

But the more I talk to people, the more I read blogs, I feel like people see taking one's time as more of a virtue to be admired in others than it is an ideal to strive for themselves. Because they want to belong to this insane world of super-fastness. As Newt Gingrich used to say, "If you're not in the Washington Post every day, you may as well not exist."

By all means, if you want to be the fastest fasterson who ever fasted, then do it. I'll even strap roller skates to your feet and push you down Mt. Kilimanjaro to help you build speed. But listen: you have to draw the line somewhere. You cannot push yourself so hard that it affects your health and/or your loved ones' lives. If you're anything like me, I can push myself now and then, but I cannot sustain it. It's way too draining. And I imagine (I have no peer-reviewed study at hand to back this up) that most writers, in their heart of hearts, feel the same way as me. But yet they hop into the slipstream anyway and write, write, write, fast-fast-fast-fast-fast until they have 20 books for sale on Amazon, none of which, shall we say, their grandchildren will be proud of.

Not that your grandchildren being proud of you should be your driving ambition. I mean, who the heck knows what will be cool or laudible once they come of age? But then again, some things don't change; most of us can look at something made a hundred years ago and tell in two seconds if the craftsman(-woman) who made it really cared about it. Really put in the time to make it extra useful, extra beautiful, whatever. There are barns still standing in my home state that have been there for a hundred fifty years. And there are others that aren't standing. Which do you think people put more time and effort into building and maintaining?

My bottom line is this: don't feel bad if it takes you longer to do things than other people. It's O.K., even if your mom and dad told you it wasn't O.K. growing up. Trust me: it's fine. Especially if you're in the business of writing (and most especially if it's a craft you're working on while you hold down a full-time job, the way I do). It's easy to look at people like J.A. Konrath and whoever else you want to pick and see that they've got twenty billion books up on the Kindle and worry that the reason they're filthy rich is because they pull a book out of their body cavity every two days.

But please, for those of us who care about quality in our books (and I'm not saying Konrath sacrifices quality; I've never read his stuff, but from all accounts it's good) for those of us who look for beauty and novelty and insightfulness in our books, please don't become a book-making factory. I'm not going that route with my own writing. I'm naturally a slow writer, and, though it is admittedly tempting to try to crank out product so I can become a millionaire, I cannot at the end of the day let myself do this. I just want to let you know you're not alone, and that your way of writing is just as valid as Konrath's.

Keep on plugging and so will I!

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