Revision is the part of writing that I enjoy the most, even though drafting can be a fun rush, all of the excitement as you press forward, line after line, sentence after sentence, page after page, and then, BAM!, the first draft is done.
I’m years into my recovery as a reformed perfectionist; nevertheless, if I plan something, I want to follow through and finish, no matter what. Training for a race. Completing some writing challenge. I’m still learning to readjust my expectations and give myself grace.
Two weeks ago at this time I was taking in my first experience of the annual Willa Cather Spring Conference. For months my excitement grew for the event, which included a 700-mile solo road trip.
A few weeks ago during my daily scroll through Twitter, I stumbled upon an idea that writer Jami Attenberg proposed: write 1,000 words each day from June 15-29.
Writing challenges intrigue me, and I’ve twice “completed” first drafts of novels during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those unfamiliar with what happens each November, writers around the world attempt to finish a draft in thirty days, with a minimum required word count of 50,000.
To observe that contemporary American society is fast-paced and frenetic is stating the obvious, but in recent months I’ve contemplated the ways I feel rushed and the ways in which I might push back against that pressure.
Two weeks ago, a writer I follow on Twitter quoted this statement from Junot Diaz: “The whole culture is telling you hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.” I thought, that’s exactly right.
In a post from early January, I shared how I adjusted my writing process so that I am not working simultaneously on multiple pieces at different stages of development. Rather, I work on a first draft or a revision of piece for however long it takes to complete the next draft. Then I move to the next piece.
I’m happy to report that I’ve maintained the focus, and I find myself less hurried and less harried. When I do write, I find that I delight it in the act, a return to that love and excitement I felt when I was a younger, less-experienced writer.
I’ve transferred this idea of slowing down into a related area of my life. I used to pride myself on having between six to eight books I was reading: different genres, bouncing from one to the next. Reading poetry one night, followed by a short story, maybe part of a chapter from a historical book. I’d have a book of criticism going, too, maybe a memoir, and even a novel.
When I noticed was that my ability to immerse myself in the world of the text had weakened, so considering my writing-approach adjustment, I cut back on the books that I’m currently reading. I can say that my enjoyment of the books (and of reading in general) has only deepened.
I’m no longer trying to read a certain number of books in a year. When I was younger, I was trying to beat my record of books read from the prior year. Now, however, I’d rather read fewer books in a more focused way and in a way that involves a richer understanding of and appreciation for those books.
Beyond these two areas, I’m applying the principles of slowing down to my internet usage, my time on social media, my approach to teaching, my relationships, my spiritual life. I’m finding that those other elements are even more fulfilling when I don’t try to rush through activities, when I don’t hurry from one thing to the next.
Slow down. Be present. Pay attention. Be all there. Don’t rush. These are the words I tell myself.