I’m Ryan Douglass and I am a proud, slow writer. “Proud” because nowadays writing skill seems linked to the speed at which you can put words into a document, rather than the quality of the words you’re putting down. “Seems.”
I’m not interested in shitting on writers who write fast, because I’m inspired by them, and wish I could be like them, but I know that I’m not. I also know that shame is so often geared toward writers who work slowly, and have wondered if I’m not passionate or self-disciplined or good enough.
The tea is being a fast writer is not inherently advantageous. If you’re Stephen King and can crank out three bomb books a year, you have it made. I don’t, however, see how there’s anything to celebrate about writing 50,000 words in four seconds if every last one of those words lacks substance. Writing is re-writing, sure, but re-writing is not erasing and starting over because everything you wrote was unusable. Your words are a groundwork to build upon in addition to deleting—they shouldn’t be there just to be.
I love all writers, but slow writers, I love us, for real, and hate the stigma we must face. How fast we’re able to crank out material says less our capability and more about who we are (I’m never on time for anything), or how much time we have on our hands, or what our serotonin is looking like that day (depressed folks lemme hear y’all make some noise), rather than how good or bad we are at the craft.
Not to be a loudmouth social anarchist again but the “write fast or else you ain’t nobody” trend is a symptom of “making it” culture. I’m so excited YA is BOOMING (come through diversity), but there’s also this musty mindset going around that if you don’t get an agent and six-figure deal in one day and aren’t friends with all the NYT Bestsellers then you must suck. Somebody needs to give that bitch some deodorant, stat. She stank.
Social climbing culture is a reality though and none of us are safe from that picturesque life in our heads–touring! Panels! Fan art! PIRACY OH NO. Dreams are vessels of hope, and we need them, but not to the point that we feel like dummies because we’re not “there” as fast as we want to be.
“After book 1, you must be working on book 2, and if you’re really about it, be working on your first three books all at one time! Sign the line, sign the autographs! Order a mimosa! You rich!” Girl, relax. No.
I won’t sit here and pretend like I’m not a broke ass bitch who thinks money will solve all his problems! My tears would dry much quicker on some Gucci pillows. However, I do I know that the quality of what I write is what will take me to real money, even if takes a little longer to create something with lasting power. That’s just me.
So I will say, with the insecure finality of anything I ever say, that when you’re all about comparing yourself, you’re not focused in enough on your own journey, and your own words. And if you’re a slow writer doubting all the time if you’re a writer, don’t!
Maybe our first priority in writing shouldn’t be to snag an agent, or a deal, or get a seat in first class on a trip to London. Maybe it should be to build something out of the thoughts, emotions and experiences we die to see strung together in narrative that makes sense, that could help us and someone else. You know, what we’re here for.
Even sitting here on my first book deal and halfway through a draft of book 2 I read writing progress updates on Twitter thinking, “Am I a fluke? Why am I not fast like that?”
I’m meditating, that’s why. It takes me time to figure out the breadth of what I want to say and how I’ll go about saying it. Because that’s who I am. There are so many different ways to be a writer, and if it takes you six years to write a book, or if you need three months off to babysit your nephews or cry about a breakup (me) while vaguely harking back to your worldbuilding when your brain cells have a free second, that doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. It just means you got shit going on and you’re you.
We can talk discipline all day long, and yes, if you say you’re a writer but never actually write, maybe reevaluate that. But if you’re worried you’re a fluke because Melissa over there is writing eight million word epic fantasies in four days and you’re still stuck on your outline after two months, well . . . maybe stop comparing yourself to Melissa, because you’re not her, her journey isn’t yours, and you’re not even writing an epic fantasy, are you? So why you still looking at what Melissa’s doing?
Racing other writers does not make you a writer. What makes you a writer is committing yourself to beating your own best time. What makes you a writer is having stories to tell and saying you will tell them and not losing track of that goal. What makes you a writer is committing yourself to the story that you have to tell, because you’re close to it, and it’s close to you, rather than because you’ve seen an avenue to a fast life.
The dreams will come true. But only if you do the work first, and do it in a way that keeps you healthy, keeps your story healthy, and makes sense for you.
Slow writers, I love us for real.