The Not-Writing Process
November 10, 2014 § 14 Comments
I am a terrible, terrible writer. Look at me: I have all the blessings of time, a reasonable income, an agent–and still it has taken me months to revise the last draft of my memoir and get it to the agent who has already expressed that she would like to sell it.
They aren’t big revisions.
The memoir has, at this point, taken eleven years. Two years to live it and nine to write it. Isn’t it supposed to be faster than this? Don’t good ideas come out, get whipped through a few drafts, sweat sweat write write and out the door?
As it turns out, I needed five years of distance before organizing the journals into a book. Two years of drafts. A year of waiting. Another year of polishing and querying. In that timeline, why not take another three months to determine how, exactly, I am going to add the less-than-ten-paragraphs needed to clarify an important relationship, with someone whom in real life I prefer not to hurt?
There is more than one kind of thought. There are thoughts you cannot complete within a month, or a fiscal quarter, just as there are thoughts that can occupy less than a vacation period, a weekend, or a smoke break. Like the spectrum of photonic behavior, thoughts come in a nearly infinite range of lengths and frequencies, and always move at the exact pace of human life, wherever they are in the universe. Some thoughts are long, they can take years to think, or a lifetime. Some thoughts take many lifetimes, and we hand them off to the next generation like the batons in a relay race. Some of these are the best of thoughts, even if they can be the least productive. Lifetimes along, they shift the whole world, like a secret lever built and placed by the loving imaginations of thousands of unproductive stargazers.
It’s OK to take the time your writing needs. Meanwhile, check out Ms. Norton’s “Against Productivity: This Essay Took Four Years to Write.” And then put down your pen and go take a walk. Or a vacation. Or a year to think your long thoughts.
Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor.