Writer’s Diary #14: Wait, Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Sorry for the riff on a remembered song lyric, but I’ve been thinking all day about waiting, slowing down, and not rushing as part of writing.

Let me take a step back. Yesterday, on the beach, I had an idea—a good one; I think. The cut-up method, a la William S. Burroughs, but modified for the 21st century.

(Or maybe it’s a terrible idea.) I don’t know yet.

In either case, it involves some programming magic in Tinderbox. But, I’m not a programmer, I’m a writer, so it’s going to take some time to make this idea work. A bit of fiddling, trial and error, and time.

What I would do in this situation is start working on this project and drop everything else. I would work so hard, and then about 2/3 of the way through, I would burn out, stop, and never finish. I would get grumpy, and not be nice to be around.

This morning, however, I only had about 30 minutes before I had to pack up for a beautiful day at the beach.

So, I finished the first step, and got far enough to know it would work, and then I realized that the way to move forward would be to work on it a little at a time, rather than all at once. Instead of my quotidian unfinished big blitz, the way forward would be to slow down, and work, and then stop in the middle while the going was good.

Tomorrow I’ll figure out what the steps would be to finish the idea, and then I’ll work on it again the next day. Either I’ll figure out it’s a stupid idea, or it’s an idea worth working on.

Although I’m only a novice runner, I think running is similar. It’s pretty clear you can’t train at full sprint all the time. You’ll burn out. Writing is the same way. Sometimes writing is a marathon, especially at the end. But other times it’s just a slow recovery run.

The trick, sometimes, is to hold off and slow down.