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What’s Your Hurry?

A year or so ago, I received an object lesson about the consequences of impatience. The tale is a little indelicate; read on with caution.

During a weeknight, a stomach bug attacked and kept me awake for much of it. I would have stayed home from my day job, but had to meet at a customer’s place to shoot some video. That went all right, so instead of going directly home, I dropped by the office for a bit. The bug came back for another round.

I headed for the restroom in the office, but it was full. The one in the warehouse break room was similarly occupied. The urgency only intensified with the passage of seconds. In the manufacturing building next door, about thirty workers share two restrooms. Those are often both busy, but time being short, I scurried in their direction on a cold February day and hoped.

One door stood open, welcoming me to sanctuary. The light was burned out. Fortune smiled on me, though, because the second restroom also was unoccupied. I made haste and learned three great truths:

You can’t pull your pants down while wearing suspenders.

You can’t slip off suspenders while wearing a jacket.

You can’t remove your jacket with suspenders jammed into the sleeves.

In short, the hurrier I got, the behinder I became.

This started me thinking about haste. It’s good to do one’s best and to give all one can give. But you can’t give more than that or go any faster than you can go. All you can do is all you can do.

Watch the runners at a track meet, especially in the sprints. When they come to the tape, the one most relaxed is the winner. He or she is giving one hundred percent, running at the limit. The second place entrant is trying to put out something beyond capacity, but is straining, flailing. I think of this when I hear the phrase, “I’m going to give 110 percent!” It’s counterproductive.

What does this have to do with writing? I’ll give you my own experience.

I began a novel almost four years ago, convinced that a rough draft would take three months or so and within six I’d be signing a contract for the finished version. I was in a HURRY. What did the first draft look like when I wrote “The End” at six months? Rough, of course.

I needed training, counsel, and experience. A couple of writing groups welcomed me and writing book authors volunteered advice, for a fee. I learned by having my manuscript critiqued and, probably more, by critiquing others. I revised and revised. When my book comes out early in 2011, it will have been through a journey of four and a half years. I’m grateful the general public will never see those early drafts.

So, for those of you early in the process of writing, remember it is a process. Enjoy it.

By the way, if you’re wondering, all’s well that ends well.

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Categories: Uncategorized, writing Tags: , ,
  1. May 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Joe, I wrote the first draft of my chapter book in a weekend. Then I spent the next couple of years learning enough about writing to rewrite it and make it the book it wanted to be. It’s going to be published in 2012.

    As far as writing process goes, I think outlining is great — I just don’t seem to be able to do it. I’m working my way through my second book, a MG novel. I wrote the initial draft in three weeks — back in September/October of last year, and now I’m working my way through what for someone else would be a first draft.

    Maybe some day I’ll have learned enough about writing to be able to do an outline.

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