It’s okay to be a slow writer.
I’m Ryan and I am a proud, slow writer.
“Proud” because lately, writing skill seems linked to the speed at which you can put words into a document, rather than the quality of the words you’re putting down. “Seems.” I’m never 100% sure what the culture is thinking, but I do feel shaded in this department on a regular basis.
I’d never shit on writers who write fast, because I’m inspired by them, and wish I could be like them, but I know that I’m not. I also know that there are tremendous writers out there who are like me, so the shame geared toward writers who work slowly is strange, and deadly, because it makes us wonder if we’re not passionate or self-disciplined or good enough.
We are good enough! Because being a fast writer is not an inherent advantage and that’s the tea. If you’re Stephen King and can crank out three bomb books a year, you’re a prodigy and you’ve got it made. I don’t see though how there’s anything to celebrate about 50,000 words that came out in four seconds but all lack substance. Writing is re-writing, sure, but re-writing is not erasing and starting over because everything you wrote was unusable. So why is “fast writing” so rewarded?
Not to be a loudmouth social anarchist again but the “write fast or else you ain’t nobody” trend is a symptom of “making it” culture. I’m so excited YA is BOOMING (come through diversity), but there’s also this musty mindset going around that if you don’t get an agent and six-figure deal in one day, and aren’t friends with all the NYT Bestsellers the next day, then you must suck. Somebody give her some deodorant because she stank.
Social climbing culture is a reality though, from which none of us are safe. That picturesque life is like a melting cone of cotton candy on top of a broken ferris wheel that we all must fist fight each other to reach. Panels, fan art, piracy, oh my. Dreams are vessels of hope, and we need them, but not to the point that we feel like dummies because we’re not “there” as fast as we want to be.
“After book 1, you must be working on book 2, and if you’re really about it, be working on your first three books all at one time! Sign the line, sign the autographs! Order a mimosa! You rich!” Girl, relax. No.
I won’t sit here and pretend like I’m not a broke ass bitch who thinks money will solve all his problems! My tears would dry much quicker on some Versace pillows (word to Smino). However, I do know that the quality of what I write is what will take me to real money, even if takes a little longer to create something with lasting power. That’s just me.
I love all writers, but slow writers, I love us, for real, and hate the stigma we face. How fast we’re able to crank out material says less of our capabilities than it does about who we are (I’m never on time for anything), or how much time we have on our hands, or what our serotonin is looking like that day (depressed folks lemme hear y’all make some noise!!!), rather than how good or bad we are at the craft.
So I will say, with the insecure finality of anything I ever say, that when you’re all about comparing yourself, you risk losing focus on your own journey, and your own words, and your own hairline. I say that to myself and kindly suggest that you consider the notion as well. If you’re a slow writer doubting all the time if you’re a writer, don’t! You’re a baddie!
Maybe our first priority in writing shouldn’t be to snag an agent, or a deal, or get a seat in first class on a trip to London. Maybe it should be to build something out of the thoughts, emotions and experiences we die to see strung together in narrative that makes sense, that could help us and someone else. You know, what we’re here for. The other stuff comes because we focus on that goal. The art runs the industry, even if we’re trained to see it the other way around.
Even sitting here on my first book deal and halfway through a draft of book 2, I’ll read writing progress updates on Twitter and think, “Am I a fluke? Why am I not fast?”
Because I’m a beautiful propeller seed twisting methodically to the forest floor and I’ll get there when I get there, that’s why. It takes me time to figure out what I want to say and how I’ll say it. It’s who I am.
Point is there are so many different ways to write, and to be, so if it takes you six years to write a book, or if you need three months off to babysit your nephews or cry about a breakup (me, lol, oh God) while harking back to your worldbuilding when your brain cells have a free second, cool then.
We can talk the logistics of self-discipline all day long, but if you’re worried you’re a fluke because Melissa over there is writing eight million word epic fantasies in four days and you’re still stuck on your outline after two months, well . . . stop comparing yourself to Melissa, maybe. You’re not her, she literally has a trust fund and a fiance and grew up in The Hamptons. And you’re not even writing an epic fantasy, are you? Why are you so focused on Melissa? She ain’t thinking about you.
Racing other writers does not make you a writer. What makes you a writer is committing yourself to beating your own best time. It’s having stories to tell and saying you will tell them and not losing track of that goal!
*theatrical hand gestures*
What makes you a writer is committing yourself to the story that you have to tell! Because you’re close to it, and it’s close to you, rather than because you’ve seen an avenue to a fast life (it’s really a slow life at the end of the day — we all be waiting on shit for centuries but that’s another conversation).
The dreams will come true, because we make dreams come true, and not the other way around.
Your work is your work, your process is your process, and to quote the incomparable SZA on the best track of the best album of all time (don’t @ me) “if it works for me, it works for me.”
Slow writers, I love us for real.