Have you ever thought about how much Americans eat out or bring home takeout? Whether we sit down at a fancy restaurant for a slow dining experience or grab a quick something from a fast-food chain or a pizza place to bring home and devour while streaming a movie, Americans love the experience of consuming food we don’t have to make ourselves.
Personally, I am not a fan of fast food. I won’t get into the pros and cons of “healthy” or “unhealthy” here. That’s not what this post is about. What I have a problem with is the “fast” part of fast food. It is a quirk of my nature that I need time to make decisions. Give me a menu and let me sit and ponder for a few minutes as I peruse the offerings. In that situation I am content and calm. Place me in a car as we crawl up to the menu of a fast-food establishment and, before we even reach the sign, my mind blanks.
The pressure to decide what I want to eat while others are waiting on me is too much and I freeze, then tend to make horrible choices I regret. For the longest time my husband couldn’t understand what happened to me anytime we got into one of those lines; whether it was for McDonald’s, Arby’s, Wendy’s or whatever, I would turn into an indecisive shrew. In time, I set the ground rules: NEVER DO DRIVE UP WITH ME.
And games like Scrabble? Just thinking about it gives me the shivers. I have a better than average vocabulary but the moment the pressure is on, I can’t pull up any words longer than “on,” “off,” or “bus.” It’s pathetic, I know.
So, what does all this have to do with writing? A lot. Everyone has their own approach to writing. Some write to a firm schedule while others work in a more whimsical manner. Some are plotters while others use a wholistic approach (also known as “pansters,” i.e., those who write by the seat of their pants.)
Writing, like choosing where and how to eat, is personal and depends upon your temperament and the way your brain works. Over the years, I have read books on writing, sat in classes, met with critique groups, and gone to conferences. I have learned from all these experiences and recommend prospective writers take advantage of these wonderful resources. There is much more to producing a well-written piece than just putting words onto a page. However, how you approach writing—once you sit down with pen in hand or stare at that blank screen—will reflect your personality. One size does not fit all. Some writers I know flourish under the pressure of NaNoWriteMo, producing their 50,000+ word projects with aplomb. Someday I may attempt that challenge but my fear of freezing up had kept me from doing so to date.
And, to make matters even more complicated, how you write can change depending on the story you are telling. Some projects have flowed rather easily for me while others felt more like pulling one tooth at a time as I struggled to put even one sentence on paper each day.
Circumstances, of course, will impact how, when, and how much you write in a day … or week … or month. Having hip replacement surgery in September has left me unable to concentrate for lengthier periods of time. This is improving but, once again, it is taking longer than I hoped as I struggle to retrain my brain to focus.
The point of this ramble? Don’t let others dictate the speed at which you write. Don’t let the fact that your best friend has finished several books while you are still working on your first manuscript cause you to give up. If you write five words a day or fifty-thousand words a day doesn’t matter in the long run, just keep writing. Find what works for you and stick with it.
Learn from others, glean from the experienced voices out there. Use what you can and don’t fret about the rest. Write fast and edit slow if that keeps your momentum and your joy in writing. But if you write at a slow pace and yet complete projects without any problems while taking pleasure in the process, don’t worry; that is the stride your brain has set.
I will offer one note of caution, however. If you get bogged down with editing and re-editing as you write and continue producing draft after draft without finishing any projects, consider switching things up. Find the rhythm and the voice that allow you to produce without sacrificing your joy in the process and keep on keeping on.