Slowing Down

After almost a decade of writing fiction every day, I’ve decided to slow down. There are several reasons, but I think it can be summed up best by something I heard at a family dinner recently: “If you hate it, why do it?”

I don’t hate writing. Far from. I’m finding that my current novel is some of the best work I’ve done yet. And I’m beginning to wonder if that’s not a direct result of slowing down.

This is far from certain. It could just be that I’m continuing to improve over time. Regardless, I’ve gone from writing seven days a week to about four, which is allowing me to spend more time mulling over scenes while simultaneously leaving me a lot less frustrated.

I can usually turn out a complete manuscript in a year (including four or so drafts). This new schedule means it’s going to take almost two, and that delays my next shot at getting an agent. That’s the real crux of this issue. But I’ve started to think agents don’t want what I’m writing. And that could be what’s slowing me down. I’m not only second-guessing what I write but whether or not I even want to be a writer.

Even if pessimism concerning my prospects is the driving force behind this slowdown, I’m feeling pretty good about my decision. I don’t feel as rushed, so I’m able to savor the work. And, oddly enough, with the writing a little less crammed into every corner of my life, it feels more like a priority.

That may sound contradictory, but I find that reserving Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 6:30 AM as my writing time gives the activity precedence and frees me up to think about other things (besides my lack of success with agents) for the rest of the day.

If nothing else, slowing down is helping me avoid burnout. That’s a good thing. And whereas this slow down might not permanent, it’s good practice—a little like pressing reset.

photo: Matthew T. Rader