In this fast-paced world it seems to me that slowness should be celebrated. This staying in is giving our natural world a much needed break from our relentless pursuit of happiness. Being still is something to be celebrated.
There is nothing fast about writing. Good writing requires reflection, deliberation, procrastination too.
I am slow. I have come to know this about myself. When I was younger I was told that I was ‘slow on the uptake’, ‘niaive’, or ‘gullible’; a couple of years ago, I was feeling very frustrated with myself and then I heard a celebrated writer discussing his weaknesses and it occurred to me that perhaps, like him, my weakness was a strength.
I do not like to rush to decisions and never have; when I write, I like to take a long time over it and to craft my stories, sometimes over a period of years. Recently I learned that if I simply sit in the same chair for three weeks on end, I can continue to craft a short story and come up with something I feel is good enough to send off to a publisher. Now, it isn’t that I didn’t know this. I have always known this, but never really given myself the time to sit for such a long time. In this fast-paced world we are all tempted to believe that everything should be accomplished at speed. If we cannot churn it out on time or fast enough then there must be something wrong with us. Everyone walks at a fast pace in London. I used to applaud this speed and what I thought was efficiency, until I got the opportunity to sit back and really reflect without the usual daily pressures which I succumb to, which for the past ten years have been finding a meaningful job which I can fit in around my writing career and responsibilities to my children.
Take this blog.
Take this blog; usually I write it in a hurry on my cheap phone, which obscures the add-ons, like ‘picture editing’ and ‘tags’, to such a degree that I have to select ‘publish’ and go back and re-edit. This is not efficient. Now, I do not want to give the impression that I am not efficient, because that would not be true. What I am suggesting is that for several years now I have found myself in environments that promote inefficiency by their very focus on capital. I did spend some time trying to work against this wrong-footedness, to no avail, and kept ‘banging-my-head-against-a-brick-wall’ as we say over here, attempting to re-engage with this same mindset in a different setting. The problem was not with me, I realised, but with the culture. I was not the right fit for it.
My modus operandi is to take time to consider. Now this works very well in the setting of contributing editor. I can receive a submission to my inbox and take the time to read it. I can deliberate, if I need to. Of course, often this is not necessary, since there are writers who send work off when they know it is not ready because they need a proverbial pat on the back for their achievement thus far, and they know this in their hearts. (This is a mistake because most publishers will not have the time to devote to setting them on the right track and will not want to mislead them by suggesting what is good or right about the work, since it is so far away from publication that the editor knows that this false hope would not be an honest approach.) There really is no substitute for writing and writing and writing towards perfection, except reading and reading and reading towards perfection.
I decided to write this because I thought it might help anyone else struggling with slowness to appreciate what it is that they have. Slowness is a gift. There is an innate patience in slowness, the ability to wait for success, the ability to hone and craft and stand at a distance and admire and then to return and refine. Nothing is ever finished. A book may be re-written, or written back to, referenced or ridiculed, made into a film, a ballet, or a play. As Massocki Ma Massocki said in his work The Pride of an African Migrant, published this year ‘Nothing can remain static’.
When running businesses, I used to tell my area managers that it took at least a year to build up a business; they always wanted me to achieve this in 6 months. I never understood why. It is easy to win a race, but consistency is a slow and deliberate habit, as those of you who have persisted with your blogs on WordPress will know. Nothing happens overnight. This is an illusion. A person may walk into your shop and have a discussion with you that will change the way that you do something, a comment or experience may change the direction of your story. Imagining that the person that you employed for whatever quality you saw in them when you employed them, has somehow managed, in a short space of time, to disprove your initial conviction is a mistake. When you achieve a job in the Private Sector your performance is everything. Yet when you achieve a job in the Public Sector you may keep it and you receive regular reviews of your character in the hope that you will change. Artistic and creative endeavors celebrate diversity and experience and do not hold a microscope up to individual mores.
I have never been competitive, preferring to do my best at whatever I set my mind to. What those around me chose to do is of no interest to me in my journey because we are not on the same journey. This means that I can happily celebrate the success of an individual and enjoy the creativity and enterprise of a successful person without feeling envy or jealousy.
In the past when I have employed people to work with me, I have celebrated their talents. I have helped them to use those talents and I have focused on those talents and not on what they were doing wrong. I like to think that I have guided them, rather than criticised them. That was always my aim. This world is full of talented and complex people who deserve a chance not to be stereotyped and written off, because they are old, or young, or slow. Sometimes it is in the greatest weakness that a strength abides, unseen except for looking.
The Hare and the Tortoise mentality:
Endlessly aiming for a prize seems to me to be wrongfootedness, as thought there were a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Imagine arriving at the end of the rainbow and finding that it was the journey that was the prize. Surely it would be better and more relaxing to understand that at the beginning, to slow down.
What I am most grateful for on my journey is my five children. Each and every one of them is a blessing that I cannot put into words. I am grateful for everyday that I spent with each of them, for the creative times when we made Lego towers, Brio towns, wind chimes, tree houses, plywood theaters, clay models, drew pictures on rolls of wallpaper, wrote stories together and practiced our own limericks, cooked, nurtured plants, carried shopping, danced, sang, played instruments, went to concerts, plays and art galleries, jogged, swam and rode our bikes.
With this in mind, I want to leave you with one thought. Enjoy the journey, and do not be so focused on the end.
References: Massocki Ma Massocki The Pride of an African Migrant, Pierced Rock Press, 2019