Inspired by a year’s end blog post from author E.J. Dawson, I found myself pondering the relative slowness with which I produce scenes, chapters, books. I am forever berating myself for my laziness, the fact that I sit around a good portion of my day staring at the television and not writing. Hart, I say to myself, look at how much everyone else is able to write in a day, a week, a year. Why are you so slow?
As I read E.J.’s post, “Write the Darkness Within,” I felt envy for her prolific pen—6 books in a year!—and recognized in her struggles with her demons something similar to my situation. I write to ease anxiety. I write to save my soul. I’ve known this for years. I know I feel better on the days I’ve sat down and punched out a page or two. What I did not recognize until now, however, was how very hard each of those pages was to produce.
My mother didn’t love me. Oh, I know, you’ve heard that sad cliché far more times than you can count. But it was more than that. By taking away anything I started before I could finish it—all in the name of protecting me from disappointment—she taught me that I couldn’t finish anything.
And to this day I can’t. I set out to clean the house. I do the floors and vacuum half the carpeting, promising myself I’ll finish up tomorrow or the next day; I don’t. I begin neatening up my patio, and I stop with leaves remaining to be raked and only the open areas swept. I’m even having trouble finishing writing this.
But here’s one thing I can do. I can write a book. I have, in fact, published 7 of them over the last 6 years, with an 8th written and traversing the dangerous territory of rewrite at the moment. The one and only thing I consistently finish is the creation of a story and the fulfillment of the fullness of its truth in tens of thousands of words—sometimes even over 100,000 of them.
How is that? I don’t know. Save for that save-my-soul thing which I’ve always discounted. Until today when I read the aforementioned post.
Most writers must practice the most meticulous discipline, often to the point of ritual, in keeping to their goals. It’s hard to sit down in that chair and open up to the muse day after day. Much like the mind in meditation, we writers are constantly bombarded by thoughts and distractions that would steal us from our work. I’m not alone in that.
But here’s the thing. It turns out, because of my mother’s intrusions in any process I began and my lack of trust in my abilities to finish anything, writing slow is the only way I can write at all. I plod along, and that plodding gets it done. Eventually. And the fact that I’ve finished 8 books serves as testimony to my perseverance. The one thing I can do, the one thing I can finish to its end, is the creation of a story.
I am prolific. I’m just prolific at a slower pace.