February 09, 2009

The Writer's Rat Race – Elsie Montgomery

Rush, rush. Rush through the bath and breakfast. Rush through the closet (and come out the other end looking all together) Dash downstairs. Slow down for a word from the Lord and a word back to Him. Hustle the grocery list together. Grab the latest article hot off the printer and don't forget the car keys. Rush paper to editor, to post office, to city. Do errands on the fly. Three stores later, three long lineups later, no one smiles. Speed home.

I need time to write. Can I best my own record of ten minutes transporting bags from car to front door; of twenty minutes propelling contents from front door to freezer, pantry, storage room, kitchen and bath? Then out to the mailbox, down the stairs, read the rejection letters, turn on the PC, and gush out ideas? Not a hope!

Writing is not for the fast lane. Those deadlines may require speedy spurts. Those contest closures require rapid acceleration, but the routine, the daily doing cannot be pushed like a full cart down aisle three. Savoring sounds, remembering phrases, noticing nuance takes time. Characters are not born and formed to full maturity overnight — not in life, nor on paper.

Landscapes curl slowly into view for my pen’s description. They do not snap past like souvenir slides on a Kodak carousel. Incidents long forgotten trickle into the mind and out the end of my fingers much more like meandering streams than rushing rapids.

For writers, smelling the roses might mean a fond reevaluation of an old classic, a few hours in a book of sonnets, a walk through the dark corners of the local library, or even a long chat with a regional expert who has forgotten far more about our topic than we will ever know, an expert who needs just the right questions to rouse his recall. Our roses smell like old parchment, dusty paper and long-dried ink, splendid, stimulating smells, but not for hurried noses.

In spite of all our enthusiasm, the words may refuse us when we need sleep or edibles to coax them out, or perhaps a husky hug from someone who cares. Writing is not for mechanical men and women but real people who get tired and hungry and who resist being pushed too hard and too long by life’s demands.

Slow down. The best may flow at low gear, not overdrive. Some of the greats testify that one sentence can take entire days for the birthing. Those with pen in hand and too impatient souls may never find out whether that one sentence hurriedly written could have been a touch more explosive had they only slowed down.

Rush, rush? It may have its place, but only a small place. I can scurry through the mundane, only so I have time to slow down . . . and sit still . . . and write.


  1. Hmmm... very true. Writing always takes time, thought, effort.

  2. I like your pacing in this article! And you are so right. I find that when I stop typing and take a break, that's when the ideas come - when I stop rushing.
    Pam M.

  3. Good article, Elsie. We need these reminders. I agree wholeheartedly about how ideas flow better when the noose is loose (my paraphrase!) I love writing under pressure (deadlines) without pressure! x

  4. It's all about balance, isn't it? Sometimes rushing is necessary but as you say it's rarely creative. Good one, Elsie. :)M


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