Slow and Steady

I’ve got a birthday coming up this month, and let’s just say I’ll be on the other side of forty-five. This has led to all sorts of interesting reactions in me, the usual, predictable ones, but the one I want to talk about here is my altered sense of time and how it has affected my writing.

In my twenties, and even throughout most of my thirties, my life seemed like a long road stretching out before me, with the destination nowhere in sight.  I felt like I didn’t have my shit together, but that was okay, because there was plenty of time (and road) to figure it all out. If I wrote, it was whenever I felt like it, and it was mostly complaining in my journal about not writing and not having enough time to write (??!!–this was before I had my daughter, mind you. I had no idea what “no time” meant).

Then suddenly (yes, it seemed quite suddenly) I was forty, and the road became decidedly shorter–terminal, in fact. The destination came into sight; it was still a long way ahead, but the fact that I could see it disturbed me. Okay, I thought. If I want to write, I better get the hell going, because sooner or later this road is going to stop.

hourglass

Slightly panicked, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Short stories, long stories, even a couple of  novels. Blog posts. Time was running out. Hurry, hurry, my mind kept badgering me. You’re going to die someday, idiot, get it all out! So I did. Piles of writing accumulated around me. I sent some pieces out on submission. A couple of small successes followed. Not much else since then.

That’s okay, but I do know what the ultimate problem is: I’m going too fast. I’m dashing down these stories (in the small pockets of time allowed me–I think ruefully back on the oceans of time I had before motherhood, and how I squandered that time), and making cursory revision attempts, but I’m not slowing down and really taking the time to make these stories the best they can be. I was so hell-bent on getting a finished product out, they turned out a little shoddy. Decent, but not good enough to be published.

It’s been a big learning curve, and it still is (that’s why I call this blog My Writing Journey-there will always be something to learn along this writing road). And the lesson that’s become clear to me is to slow down, be patient. Slow and steady. Quality over quantity. I don’t have to prove that I’m a writer by pumping out a slew of stories that aren’t quite ready.

typewriter

I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a story based on a poet that lived in my area in the mid-nineteenth century. I’ve also mentioned that I don’t really know much about poetry, or how people lived in the mid-nineteenth century in New England. So I’m going to have to do a lot of research. That’s going to slow me down. Not a bad thing. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on character sketches for the four main characters, really digging into their personalities, their history, their passions and baggage. This is all after getting down a first draft of the main events in the story, a draft that will be expanded on and reworked. This summer when Lilly is on vacation, I’ll plod away on a workable outline. Maybe NaNoWriMo this November will be spent fleshing out this outline into a novel. And then the real work will begin.

I love these characters, and I must tell their story. But I want to do it right. So I’m not rushing. Slow and steady. I’m not planning on dying in the interim. (I still want to work toward my Fifty by Fifty plan, so I’ve got a lot of work to do!)

As I’ve been pondering these things, I came across this articleabout a Japanese painter who felt he didn’t paint anything of worth until he was 70 years old, that the older he got, the better he got. There’s hope for me yet!

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Slow and Steady

  1. Well, the good news: this is a terrific blog. The bad news: The age thing doesn’t get any better! Interestingly enough I went into a frenzy of writing in my late forties. I was working on my PhD at the time and writing fiction became a great way to escape the drudgery of formal research. Of course writing is different for each and every one of us writers. I think your plan is a good one because, well, it’s a plan. Age intensifies everything. I’m much more focused on a better living style now–walking 10 K steps a day. Meditation (still weak on that one) eating better foods. Not drinking as much. Why in the hell didn’t I do this when I was thirty-one? Why ask? I didn’t do it, so let’s move on! 🙂

    The fact is you have a much more crowded life than I do. I think your 50/50 goal, given your circumstances, is a good one. Research will slow you down, but it will also build a slow fire in the creative camp. I wrote a story based on the Rosa Parks bus incident. For just that fifteen minute occurrence–before the police showed up, I ended up doing a ton of research and found out A LOT of info that I hadn’t known before. Now that I enjoyed.

    My unsolicited advice (sorry) on 19th century research is to get to a good library and check out the newspapers of that period. Tons of info there. I remember looking at a London newspaper from 1830 or so and found a column that listed ships that had sailed for America. It listed the ships that made it and the ships that didn’t. The “Didn’t” column was quite long. I remember staring at that column wondering how many humans, wives, children, mothers and fathers, must have stared at that column with aching hearts.

    Oh, and Hokusai is also my hero! Thank you so much for that link! And just think Tina, you haven’t lived half your life yet! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that article made me feel a lot better! Thank you, Paul, for your comments and the advice. That’s a great idea about the newspapers, I’ll make sure I’ll try to do that. I do hope that people don’t think I’m “whining” about my age–I know I’m still young, but hey, this is the oldest I’ve ever been! And you’re right, things are starting to feel more intense and urgent. It’s all new to me. Thanks for your encouraging remarks!

      Liked by 1 person

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