A recent interview with John Irving caught my attention. He was asked the standard question about process, and explained that he used paper and a pen. No computer–not even a typewriter, since the latter had too many moving parts. “My study was looking like a machine shop,” he said. Besides, writing longhand was as fast as he needed to go.
While the notion of sitting in at a desk in New England with a stack of legal pads and a box of Bics nearby has some appeal, I’m still a sucker for technology. This is due, I expect, to the lingering memory of struggling through a seminary thesis with only an IBM Selectric, which makes me very glad now for what a word processor yoked to a 23″ screen can handle. And yet, in this day when so much goes at a gallop, I find myself more and more resonating with the virtues of slow.
Others offer encouragement to throttle back; they speak of leaving the ether for a while, to hunker down with simple tools in the woods, on a mountain, or at the beach; some extol the benefits of extended, regular seasons (hours, days, or more) in a monastery. They’re slowing down, backing off, recognizing that at times, busy is the enemy of art. They advocate the value of listening, alongside the benefits of saying stuff.
I get this urge; I’m choosing to give it attention, too. There is, however, a problem with slow–at least for the writer who wants to make books. This is because writers need–we are told with fervor, and often–to build platforms. And building platforms, to say nothing of all else associated with getting a book to market, requires hours, energy; it requires a learning curve, a brisker pace.
A dilemma, then. On the one hand, writing takes time–to notice, mull, process, rewrite. On the other, things are moving and those who don’t keep up fall behind. There’s a lot of ground to traverse, especially for those embracing independent publishing: that novel will need editing, formatting, and a cover; if it’s gonna get read, then networks need widening, and platforms need building, too.
Much to ponder…