Reflections on “The Art of Slow Writing”
From formlessness, form arises. A story, essay, poem, novel, begins from a slight agitation, a dream, an image of the sun sprinkling over the water, from a hidden place deep in the unconscious. It is raw, muddled. A piece of soft clay that must. be shaped repeatedly before hardening. There may not even be a final form in mind, only the steady cut of steel to unformed material, as shavings float away to reveal a mysterious figure.
Write when you’re ready, when you can. If you wait for inspiration to guide you, if you need to conjure up the perfect image of a masterpiece before you glide your ink pen across a piece of paper, you’ll never start.
Start anywhere. Linger longer in silences, playing with time like a zen monk plucking a daisy from a field, open to what comes.
No expectations, no high standards.
Just write. It could be shit. Who cares? That’s what revision is for.
Write. Write often. Revise even more often.
Go through a couple of drafts before you expose your work to other people for a critique.
Decide what tools are best for you: being physically intimate with a scrap of paper and a pen, clicking away on the keys of a steampunk typewriter, going stream-of-consciousness on a modern computer.
Whatever you use will mold your writing. While a golden retriever and pit-bull are both considered dogs, each has its own bark.
There is no ideal time to write, especially when you have a full-time job, kids, and hobbies. If you truly want to write, you’ll make it work, though.
From waking early, long before the clouds have parted to let sunlight in through the curtains. From those precious moments before the school bus squeals to a stop in front of your house. From an unpaid lunch hour in between a ten hour shift. From a weekend when everyone else is at a bar, watching the football game.
Usually having too much free time can make you lazy with possibilities. But to aspire to work under a constraint can paradoxically be the most productive writing help.
Writers should endure an apprenticeship to develop their abilities. They can learn from masters, alive and dead. Everyone and everything can be a teacher. From television shows to trying new formats, from copying the prose of novelists to mimic their structure to reading wide varieties of material, every experience shapes the development of the artist.
Writers must be patient when struggling for progress.
They must endure in themselves, so that they can become who they first believed they were when they began writing.
Most people will not work for years to steadily improve their craft. They will dabble around, then give up. They will see minor success, then give up. They will get distracted, settle down with a family, find a full-time job, play a video game, then give up.
Writers must have the heart to continue.
Solitary walks through changing trees. Musing in nothingness with sunlight on pine needles, open to all ideas, but not holding on. Writing comes without any obstruction when you idle without a purpose.
Writing is process, not result. Journals kept of meticulous notes, observations, image patterns, daily thoughts. Learn through life and write about life. Some material written ten years ago can be useful in a future novel. Work slowly, deliberately, not rushing to produce.
Henry Miller considered the relationship that one has with books to the one that one has with life.
Are you a slow reader, a note taker, one who is methodical in your learning? Do you linger on certain lyrical passages, feeling the syllables seduce your lips?
Are you one of those people who breezes through a work, taking in information for a moment, only to forget everything a week later?
Writers need to deeply read in order to deeply write.