Sunday, April 8, 2012

Slow Down, You're Moving to Fast

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos

A good friend reminded me recently of something a writing mentor said to us years ago: "Don’t rush your words."


In her book, The Wave in the Mind, Ursula K. Le Guin reinforces that message. She says, “Your mind is like a cat hunting; it’s not even sure yet what it’s hunting. It listens. Be patient like the cat. Very, very attentive, alert, but patient. Slow. Don’t push the story to take shape. Let it show itself. Let it gather impetus. Keep listening. Make notes or whatever if you’re afraid you’ll forget something, but don’t rush to the computer. Let the story drive you to it. When it’s ready to go, you’ll know it.” 

I was struck with a new story idea last week, which at first I thought was very inconvenient, because I’m already deep into a project. But this new idea was so different from anything I normally write, that I couldn’t help but get excited about it. So right now, I’m like that hunting cat - attentive, alert, but patient. I'm taking notes and capturing the voice of the character that started telling me her story. I don’t know if I need to remind myself not to rush – I am naturally a slow writer. Still I find Le Guin’s words encouraging confirmation. And I’m enjoying the discovery process as the depth of the idea reveals itself to me.

Do you let new ideas reveal themselves to you slowly or are you more apt rush to the computer and pounce on them?


72 comments:

  1. Ruth, so glad you reminded me of this book. I bought it on an overseas trip few years back and I like the 'hunting like a cat' advice. Cats never rush and they're always (okay, often) spot-on. I usually wish I can write/produce works faster, but some things can't be rushed.

    The song video looks lovely but I wasn't able to finish watching it because it didn't load properly for me. (Still, I enjoy the slow and steady hot air balloons. :) )

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    1. I remember jotting down this title when it was recommended to me years ago during a writing group gathering. Last week at the library I saw it on display (I love those serendipitous moments)and snatched it right up. I'm glad to finally be reading it.

      I'm bummed that you didn't get to finish the song. I've had it in my head all week =D

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  2. I love this. Very important to take your time and be patient. Very true. I used to pounce on ideas but now I like to let them simmer and build a while. It seems to add something to them and make them stronger stories. Sometimes its hard though - especially when you're really excited about it!

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    1. I agree, Leigh, it can be hard - but well worth it to wait.

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  3. I like to mull an idea over in my mind for days before I start writing anything down, then it can be weeks before I have enough to start planning an outline. I guess that's the part that I definitely don't rush :-)

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  4. This is so true; thanks so much for sharing it. I'm one of those writers who pushes to get words down as fast as possible, but then I usually find I've rushed off in a wrong direction. I'm learning, little by little, that it works much better for me to slow down and hunt my story.

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  5. I have to wait for an idea to fully develop in my mind before I start drafting. This is why I usually have about 20+ pages of notes/ideas in my planning. :)

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    1. 20 pages of notes sounds like a good start.

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  6. Great post, Ruth! I'm a slow to percolate kind of writer most of the time, especially when it comes to picture books. Sometimes a poem practically writes itself, but mostly I take my time, writing down phrases, possible twists, etc. The process can take weeks or months.

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    1. Yes, those pieces that almost write themselves are pure magic, aren't they?! And rare gifts =) Mostly it's slow going for me too.

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  7. I write a new idea down and if ideas keep coming then I will start a notebook, but I don't start writing until the idea has taken shape. But it's always exciting to get a new idea! I love the concept of a cat hunting! Great post Ruth :)

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    1. Sometimes as I'm filling a notebook with little bits of ideas, I'm have the feeling that most of them will not come to anything. This idea seems substantial and I am looking forward to following it through.

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  8. I tend to write things down as they come. When I have an idea, I usually end up having little phrases that pop into my head and I'll mull them over and refine them.

    Thankfully, since I seem to always have several projects going at once, I'm lucky enough to know which phrases fit which projects.

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    1. Lol, I guess there is always the potential for confusion, isn't there Cat?!

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  9. I have to remember this all the time. There are scenes that I am so excited about writing that I just want to rush right through. Slow down! Yeah, I have that problem

    ctny

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    1. It's easy to get carried away sometimes.

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  10. I’m going to book-mark this post for all those times I need to slow-down when it comes to writing. Getting the ‘pace yourself’ thing right is not a small matter. It’s akin to having a sane internal life. Working on it.

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    1. LOL. A sane internal life - is that even possible?

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  11. Since I write as a pantser, I do sometimes rush through a scene, which invariably results in many edits and revisions. Right now I'm working on a paranormal novel, waaaaay out of my comfort zone, so I'm taking it very slow. Critique partners ( Hi, Ruth!) all found many things to edit, so I've thrown all that away, and am doing something I NEVER do...outline! Background story, character profiles in detail ( and even those have changed), detailed gargoyle profiles, and so on. At the rate I'm going with this stuff, there seem to be only 2 options: either the story will be practically written or it will never get written.

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    1. Oh, I'm sure this one will get written, Mikki. And I'm looking forward to reading more of it!

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  12. Ruth, great post as always. Right on for me today! Needed to har her words "slow down." I love the total presence of that cat waiting for it prey -- totally alert, watching and listening. Good advice for us. I am not comfortable with something I'm writing, and I think I'm pushing, so I stepped away for a few days. It needs to reveal itself more to me.

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    1. So glad you found this post helpful, Pat. I love it when we come across the right words at the right time. Wishing you all the best with your project.

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  13. Good thoughts! I tend to rush to my computer so I don't forget the idea, but, I do let it simmer, and come beck to it when I have something to add. Great post...thanks!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and chiming it =)

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  14. Thanks for this, Ruth. I love Ursula Le Guin. I tend to try and rush things, especially since I'm working on an assignment right now. But really, I know a story won't BE rushed.

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    1. There's the tension, - assignments and deadlines. Tell that to the story that's dragging its feet, right. Good luck with your assignment.

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  15. Love this song! And LOVE the image of an idea creeping like a stalking cat! So perfect! I usually let ideas roll around for awhile - sometimes when they come they just aren't ready to be written yet - something is missing. But every now and then an idea strikes hard and fast, all there, and then I rush to get it down :)

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    1. I think the picture of that cute kitty will be in my mind from now on, reminding me to stalk those ideas carefully. Glad you like the song and the post, Susanna.

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  16. This is the best post I've read in months! I love Le Guin and her talent for seeking out just the right words. That kitten is adorable. Ironically, (the word I'm involved in today on my blog.) I was humming that Simon and Garfunkle song yesterday, remembering all those mornings I started dashing off to an early morning class, then settling in to enjoy the trip as they came on the car radio. They need to revive that song. It fits today's world more than ever.

    Hugs for this one!

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    1. So glad this post resonated with you, Lee.

      This song would be a great way to start every day, right?! Funny that you had it in your head the other day. I've had it in my head every day since posting this. But I'm not complaining. It makes me smile.

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  17. You sound excited about this new project. That is the best thing in writing. When we have something that thrills us that much.

    And I am trying to slow down too. Simon and Garfunkle were spot on, weren't they?

    I don't want me to move about so quickly that I miss the little but special things in life. I have an A to Z post coming up about this. :-)

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    1. I guess it would be hard to slow down during the A to Z challenge, wouldn't it. That's quite a pace to keep up. Good for you =)

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  18. I always need to slow down at the end of a piece of work - apparently I have a tendancy to rush through to a conclusion. I should listen to Feeling Groovy more often!

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    1. Oh, I think everyone should listen to Feeling Groovy more often ;)

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  19. I let my ideas reveal themselves to me slowly so I can better flesh out the characters and plot. Sometimes I let an idea grow in my head for a long time before I take action. Great post!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Cynthia. Sounds like you've got a good dose of patience there.

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  20. I'm afraid I'm a pouncer! I tend to feel if I don't get it down immediately, I'll lose it. Especially if it's one of my very infrequent forays into poetry. However, if I decide to try my hand at a novel I think I'll try to be more like the cat!

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    1. I can see how you would need to get specific thoughts down fast before they are lost. I do that too.

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  21. Ruth, how exciting to have an exciting, new idea! I work slow so, but I do try to get as many details down as I can about a new idea if I'm in the middle of something else.
    Anxious to hear about your 'artist date' that you mentioned on my blog! What did you do today? Are you going to blog about it?

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    1. Hi Dawn =) My 'artist date' was going to an art gallery to view a new exhibit of abstract art. Visiting galleries is one of my new favorite things to do. I can just get lost in each piece. I find that if I'm having a day that's too busy, or I'm feeling discontent in any way, surrounding myself by the creativity of others in this way can really ground me.

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  22. Wonderful post. I am so impatient, but I know I need to be patient. It's the much wiser way to write. We can't force the muse.

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    1. Being impatient usually doesn't help me to write more, and maybe even results in my writing less. Frustration is not good for creativity. But patience is never easy, is it?

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  23. Well done blog! Actually, I'm trying to pick up the pace of my life - especially in the writing area. Have too many irons in the fire at the moment. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jan. Wishing you all the best with your writing =)

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  24. Hi Ruth -

    Excellent advice! When I'm stuck, I usually walk away from the writing part and pray. The answers come when I'm relaxed and calm.

    Blessings,
    Susan

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    1. Great advice, Susan. I pray about my stories as well. There is great peace in remembering that God is in control of it all.

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  25. Awesome advice! I tend to rush to my computer but then have to step away again while the story forms. I definitely needed to hear this - thanks!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Daisy =)

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  26. Thanks, I so needed to hear this today. I'm working on a story that doesn't want to take shape on the page, so I will take this lovely advice and wait...

    Thanks for following my crazy blog; right back at you!

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  27. I love this...I'm in the same exact spot--fleshing out characters and figuring out what their story needs to be. It's so much fun, isn't it?

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    1. It IS fun. I'm really enjoying the discovery process.

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  28. Several years ago I was getting ideas coming to me fast and furiously. I bought a new hard-backed notebook and it's almost full of those ideas in note-form. I'm struggling for ideas at the moment but this post has reminded me of that book full of my ideas. I'm going to go and get it off the shelf when I've posted this up. Thanks for the prompt.
    Love the hunting kitty!

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    1. Oh, this is very exciting, Rosalind! I do hope you find something that you feel drawn to finish.

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  29. Excellent advice. When I first wrote, it was fast and furious. And a hot mess. Now, I think before I write and sometimes edit along the way. Much cleaner first drafts result.

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    1. I like that term, Theresa "a hot mess." Thanks for stopping by and chiming in.

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  30. I love Le Guin's advice. What a beautiful anaolgy. I, too, am a slow writer. Nope, I don't rush when I'm writing. I wish I could read faster, though, so I could keep up with everyone's blog posts!

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    1. With so many participating in the A to Z challenge, is it even possible to keep up with all the posts? I'm woefully behind.

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  31. I've nominated you for the Sunshine Award. Check it out here: http://www.allynstotz.blogspot.com/2012/04/sunshine-award.html

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    1. Thanks so much for thinking of me, Allyn!

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  32. Wow, we really need this in these days when everybody wants to "fast draft." I came to a point in my WIP where I needed to stop, muse, make notes, drag diagrams, and let the well fill. At first, I felt mildly nervous or upset that I wasn't putting words down. But now I'm so much more READY to put words down.

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    1. Glad you're feeling ready after taking that time, Marcia.

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  33. What lovely words to aspire to Ruth, thanks for sharing them. I am quick to write down new ideas, I've had my own epiphanies this week, but once they are down, I try and forget about them for a bit (in case they were rubbish lol).

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    1. I know what you mean, Catherine. The rubbish inevitably sneaks in there once in a while ;)

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  35. Good post Ruth - this is a thought from Joe Bunting of The Write Practice,

    "Empathy, as well as deep thought, depends (as neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have found) on neural processes that are inherently slow."

    Love it!

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    1. Aha! Proof that some things just can't be rushed. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing, Claire =)

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  36. Yep, we need to remember it's important not to rush. Could go off on a wrong tangent or miss something in the story that's really important. I'm slow just to write ideas down - usually imagine the possibilities for a couple of days so sometimes there are a couple of options I can write down. I've set myself a tight deadline to finish my WIP, just hope I can keep the quality up!

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    1. Good luck with walking that line, Nick - working on deadline but not rushing the story. Sounds like you've got a good handle on the pitfalls of rushing.

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  37. Oooh, this is why I love my notebooks. I can explore the ideas slowly ... and if ideas are tumbling in my head, at least I can put them on paper and forget about them, to play with later.

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  38. I write in a notebook, but sometimes in the middle of the night I write in the dark, and then in the morning the words make no sense—like those captiva (or whatever they're called) things that they make you type out in order to post a comment. LOL! I like the point of not rushing and letting the story tell itself. I'll have to explore more of what Ursula K. Le Guin has to say on writing.

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