My slow read of The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo is complete. It is a good book, though in the middle I read it too slowly at times so it felt choppy and fragmented. The chapters are super short, usually only two or three pages, which encourages reading the book during short time windows. By the end, when I started reading it in longer chunks more regularly, it at times felt too long. Still, there is an abundance of good stuff to be found in the book.
DeSalvo’s point in a nutshell: Writing is hard work and takes time so take the time and don’t worry about whether it is a month or a year or ten years before your piece is finished. It will take however long it takes. Sure, you can force your way through it but that will probably produce work that is not as good as it could have been if you had taken the time you needed to get it right.
Slow writing is a meditative act: slowing down to understand our relationship to our writing, slowing down to determine our authentic subjects, slowing down to write complex works, slowing down to study our literary antecedents.
Let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to be blockbuster novelists with publishing contracts that require a manuscript by a certain date. Most of us who undertake a creative writing project are not going to have a deadline. So there is no reason to fret over how long it takes. Commit to the project, commit to taking however much time is needed to make it a success. Don’t pay attention to friends and family who ask you why it is taking so long or tease you about that novel still not being done. They aren’t writing your novel and they have no freaking idea what it takes to do the job right.
DeSalvo’s voice throughout the book is that of writing coach. There are chapters about keeping a proccess log, about failure, daydreaming, writing partners, revision, and how to know when you really are done and let the work go. She provides examples of professional writers and the problems they have faced and overcome in each chapter. In the end I am left with a long list of novels that sound really good and other books about writing and creativity.
While Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic gives the reader permission to be creative, DeSalvo gives the writer permission to take her time in the process and not fret about it. There will be good days and bad days; days when the writing comes fast and easy and days when a single sentence is an accomplishment; days when everything clicks into place and days when nothing makes sense and everything seems wrong. That’s what writing is — a proccess, a journey, a lot of problem-solving.
every writer is a beginning writer, and every work teaches you how to write it, but not the next one.
Lots of wisdom nuggets in this one. The hard part, of course, is remembering them when you are in the thick of writing and feeling stressed and wanting to give up and press delete or toss the pages into the fire. Don’t give up, just slow down. It will all be okay if you give yourself and the writing time.