In the West, especially here in the U.S., we worship speed. You can’t watch TV for longer than a few minutes here without seeing an ad for a faster car, internet connection, or pizza delivery. Getting work done quickly isn’t thought of as a mere business advantage, but a virtue. “Slow” service at a restaurant is enough to make us never return, no matter how good the food is. A “slow” person is unintelligent. A “slow” piece of writing is dull.
Writers often express the desire to write faster: To produce as many words in the shortest time possible. Many articles have been written about how to speed up your writing—I’ve written a few myself.
But today, I’m going to turn things around a bit. I’m going to suggest you slow down. Spend a week or a month deliberately taking your time.Write in a quiet frame of mind, where you allow the words to come at a leisurely pace. Set aside your self-imposed deadlines and goals. Write slowly.
The Benefits of Slowing Down
Slowing your writing down has many advantages. Here are just three of the most important ones.
Tranquility. Writing slowly allows for a calmer, more joyful writing life. “We spend a significant portion of our lives tirelessly racing to an imaginary finish under the guise of “productivity” — only to realize that the finish line never comes,” writes Dave Ursillo on the Zenhabits blog.
Many of us set strict deadlines for ourselves. We’re harsh taskmasters who punish ourselves with guilt and frustration when we don’t produce at the rate we think we should. The result is a lot of stress. The pressure to produce more, more, more, to churn out that set number of words, to get that novel done ASAP, can leave us depleted and exhausted.
Why not ease up and bring more joy to your writing? What’s the point of writing if it makes you miserable?
Focus. If you’ve ever done tai chi, yoga, or Zen walking meditation, you know the clear-eyed focus that dawns as you move with slow, measured grace. When you write slowly, your vision becomes trained on your work. Your mind settles. Things that seemed muddled become simple.
Think of what it’s like when you speed down the freeway in a car. You glance at the wildflowers growing on the hillside, but they’re just a blur. Now think of what it’s like when you’re walking. Then, the flowers become clear. You can see each detail.
The same is true of writing. Fast writing might get us to the end of our story quickly, but it turns everything into a blur. Write slowly, and see the new clarity you gain.
Increased productivity. The reason most of us want to write fast is because we imagine we will get more done that way. But will we, really?
Artistic and spiritual masters often create great works, not by rushing, but by working at a continuous, measured pace. You may find that slowing down actually helps you produce more. Why? Several reasons.
- Heightened awareness. Slowing your writing down forces you to be more aware of what you're doing and trains your gaze onto your work. Our awareness tends to be scattered and dispersed when we work fast. Slowing down forces us to pay attention.
- Fewer mistakes. Nothing decreases productivity like having to go back and redo sloppy, disorganized, or poorly wrought work. Ben Franklin's old adage "haste makes waste" may be about as hackneyed a phrase as you can find—but it's been overused because it is true. Working slowly certainly won’t eliminate the always-necessary work of revision, but you may find yourself with better drafts that lead more easily to polished, perfected work.
- More radiant writing. The relaxation and tranquility that comes with a slower pace eventually makes its way to the page. As you feel less and less stressed about your writing, your joy will radiate into your words, making your writing shine.
Slowing down your writing can be uncomfortable at first. After all, it goes against the grain of modern life—Do it now! Hurry up! Make it snappy! But why not try slowing down, just for a while, and see what it brings to your writing and your writing life?
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...