The Slow Writing Manifesto

(From the Future) [English v3.14]

Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill (Pieter Claesz, 1628), photo by Thomas Hawk

THE CENTURY OF SPEED AND SWIFTNESS

We hereby declare that the 20th century was the century of speed, of swiftness, of get your booty on and move. We likewise hereby declare that the first decade and a half of the 21st century was also 1/15 a century of speed, of swiftness, of get your booty on and move. We furthermore hereby likewise declare, having will had written this in the year 2022, that the first year of the third decade of the 21st century will have had been 1/100 of a century of speed, of swiftness, of get your booty on and move.

Therefore, we declare, in manifesto form, a movement against speed and swiftness. Let the adjectival form of this movement be known as SLOW. In observance of the fact that other movements have already rushed to claim this adjective SLOW — to wit, slow food, slow reading, slow information, slow media — and in observance of the fact that in their haste to claim this adjective these supposed movements have proven themselves to be anything but slow, let this manifesto henceforth be The One True Manifesto of the Slow.

Moreover, given what will turn out in 2097 to be the long history of these failed movements, let us declare that up to and including now, these various slow movements have missed the point of slowness. The value of slowness, of deliberation, of reflection, of listless contemplation and purposeless reverie, lies not in preparing meals more slowly, not in reading more slowly, not in consuming more slowly media designed to be consumed more slowly. The one true aim of slowness is to write more slowly. This nearly unachievable goal, the pursuit of which is made all the more worthwhile for its elusiveness, is the goal of Slow Writing.

SLOW IS THE OPPOSITE OF LESS SLOW

We, the manifestoers, have studied this issue for years and have conclusively proven, though not without some pause, that slow writing is the opposite of less slow writing. As the world is full of less slow writing, produced at a frenzied pace by writers who write less slowly, we take it as a challenge to write slow and to write slowly. Slow writing is writing that is savored for every letter written, every word produced. Slow writing requires sustained moments of stillness, of nothingness, of blank stares out the window. To do anything more would be to taint the trickling stream of text that defines slow writing.

SLOW IS AN ANAGRAM FOR SLOW SPELLED BACKWARDS

The ineffable quintessential fifth essence of slow writing occurs at the level of the letter. Slow writing is the alphabet in ecstasy. To write an entire word at a time is a crime. To write an entire paragraph at once is textual genocide, an annihilation of the single, of the one, of the unique letter. When one writes slowly, one nurtures. When one writes less slowly, one brings forth death and despair.

Now is the time to decide whether you are a creator or a destroyer.

SLOW IS INFINITELY DIVISIBLE

A speed such as slow is always divisible by half, and every half is divisible again by half. Those who write slowly must now write twice as slowly and half as fast. If you halve your writing speed you need only to halve it once again to be halfway to writing an eighth less fast. The divide between the halves and halves not is the divide between the acutely slow and the chronically prolific. It is the divide between slow writing savored for every word yet unpenned and fast writing spewed on a screen in the face of a deadline. Let it be said, what everyone knows is true, that the world despises the prolific, while the slow will inherit the keys to the kingdom of the Alpha and the Omega and all the letters in between.

SLOW IS THE ENGINE OF LESS (WHICH IS MORE)

The great Byzantine historian Sokrates Scholastikos tells the story of the Greek monk Demosthenes the Silent, who spent seven epic decades toiling on the island of Leros, researching the greatest treatise never written on the element of æther. For years Demosthenes the Silent observed and tested the essential attributes of æther, identifying in the end 1024 qualities, which he arranged and categorized on an elaborate 32×32 table. The Greek monk was absolutely correct about 1023 of these attributes, only being mistaken about the final characteristic, which was his proposition that words themselves could be written in æther. Steadfast in his faith in science, Demosthenes put the 1024th attribute to test by composing his elaborate table about æther, of which there is no surviving copy, on æther itself.

In the 21st century this tale races ahead of us, a herald announcing the folly of racing ahead. Seven epic decades Demosthenes spent but seven more would have served him well. Beware the 1024th attribute of anything. Beware of finishing anything to completion. Celebrate the beginning and the middle but never the end. Compose quickly and you may find like Demosthenes you have composed nothing at all. Compose slowly in order to compose less than this nothing.

SLOW IS THE FUTURE

This One True Manifesto of the Slow, written in the century of speed and swiftness and get your booty on and move, is itself a product of a slowness that has neared to stillness. Years it has taken to write. Only in the year 2022 will it have had been finished. And only in the year 2097 will traversal across past and present have been perfected, allowing Time Couriers to deliver this message to you, now, in the middle, the blessed middle, of the second decade of the 21st century. Read it and heed it well. We who must write must write slowly in order to write at all. The present is littered with the brittle letters of those who have finished their writing, those who have had their say, those who have written less slowly. The future meanwhile belongs to those of us who have not finished what we have started. Our time has not yet come, because our words have not yet come.

The Slow Writing Manifesto originally appeared on samplereality.com in a slightly different form.