“To me, the single biggest mark of the amateur writer is a sense of hurry. Hurry to finish a manuscript, hurry to edit it, hurry to publish it.”Charles Finch
When I found this quote over the summer, it was a gut punch. I felt personally called out. (How dare you, Mr. Finch, etc, etc.) But he’s absolutely right — I’ve been in a hurry.
From the moment I (finally, miraculously) finished my first novel draft this spring, I’ve been rushing toward publication as fast as I can. After all, my inner dialog said, you’ve already wasted years not writing, you need to make up for lost time. This voice was also kind enough to inform me that anything less than instant success was failure, and that the only way to achieve instant success was to rushrushrush. I ran through my first set of edits, then my second, then beta readers, then more edits, then I started prepping for querying — all as fast as I could.
Out loud, I would say I know that the publishing industry is a slow moving machine, and that I was ok with it taking a long time to get published, but that was a lie. Deep down, I still dreamed of being discovered, being appreciated and admired, right off the bat. I was pretty uneducated about the publishing process, and I didn’t fully grasp the patience (and strategy) involved in entering the industry. I’d heard the one-in-a-million stories about writers who get their manuscripts accepted right away, and I thought why not me? Statistics were not in my favor, but miracles happen, right?
Predictably, I have not been an overnight sensation. Over the last few months, however, I have learned a whole lot about being a writer, especially the art of slowing down. I’ve learned that letting my words rest for a season (whether that’s overnight or months at a time) does in fact make them stronger. Many writers much more experienced than I have recommended this pause, but let me be another voice extolling the virtues of slow: I promise your work will really, truly, 100% be better for the time you allow it to marinate. There are many things that improve with a little time, things we enjoy even more for how long they took and the intentionality that went into them (think scotch whisky, bonsai trees, and hand-quilted coverlets). Writing is one of those things.
For me, beginning to slow down was accompanied by a paradigm shift in how I approach my vocation as a writer. Essentially, it’s the difference between being a sprinter and a marathoner. You may run faster and make progress more quickly if you sprint, but you’ll go a lot farther if you slow down and pace yourself. In less metaphorical terms: if the point of writing is to be done with a project as quickly as possible, you will learn less about your craft and turn out weaker work.
Rushing also means it’s much easier to get discouraged when your writing takes longer than you planned (or your manuscript doesn’t wow the first editor you query). Until you can slow down enough to celebrate the micro-goals — appreciate every step along the way; stop and smell the proverbial roses — you’ll be disappointed by your progress. That’s where I lived for years: so focused (and overwhelmed) by my vision of what progress meant, I was paralyzed. 0/10, do not recommend.
Ultimately, though it still pains me to say it, the best things can’t be rushed. Sure, I can fly through a draft and send it hurtling into the world half-baked, but I will have learned little about the craft, and the reader will have a mediocre (at best) experience. Yes, there are outliers who write in a fit of inspiration and produce genius on the first try, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Most mortals (you and me) will be better writers only when we’ve logged the hours.
I’m still a baby-writer, but I think Mr. Finch would agree I’m on the right track to outgrow the label of ‘amateur,’ one unhurried moment at a time.
This blog post is my first as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. In their words, their purpose is: “To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!” Head over to their website for more info, to visit the other blogs in the hop, or to join yourself!