“Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.” Mae West
A few years ago I read Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow, where he writes about a growing movement that encourages savoring the time you have rather than trying to use it to further another goal – especially in the case of raising our children. He made some powerful points (although he admits he got a speeding ticket while he was researching the book). The Slow Movement has been growing much faster than you might think from its name – and I hope it continues to do so.
Some people (Wikipedia, for example) say the Slow Movement began in 1986, when people protested the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in the beautiful and ancient Piazza di Spagna, Rome. Since then, there have been groups devoted to Slow Food, Slow Parenting, Slow Travel, Slow Design – and most recently I perused Nicole Daedone’s exquisitely titled Slow Sex.
Of course the Slow Movement is not all that new: the Romantics and the Transcendentalists propounded living free from the fast-paced, rat-race to nowhere, and instead going inward – to be still and to appreciate being in nature.
The Slow Movement builds on these concepts. There are benefits – ethical, individual, social, and spiritual – to doing what you do at the right speed, that is, the speed that suits the activity. It’s bringing mindfulness to your practice. Mindfulness simply means being with what is – no judgment, no analysis: being an active presence in the moment. I thought about this a lot when I listened to this recording of crickets in high summer. The artist slowed down the sounds to our human lifespan relative to the crickets’ lifespan – and what is rendered here is the music of the spheres. (This is worth listening to!)
If you’re not taking pleasure in writing down each word, in savoring the tastes and sounds you describe, in imagining deeply the tenderness or pathos in your character’s heart, you’re missing out on the most satisfying aspect of writing.
Try this for a week or two: let your purpose in doing anything be the activity itself. Even wash your dishes mindfully (skip the dishwasher). Appreciate each lovely dish, let yourself be mesmerized by the sparkling soap bubbles, feel the warm water caressing your fingers, experience the satisfaction of stroking the sink clean.
Put away your laptop for a while and instead get out a pen and a notepad. Now gaze out the window for a while. If possible, wander outside and lie in the hammock.
Write down a word: for example, perhaps that word is ‘buttercup.’ You want to write for writing’s sake. That is the pleasure you get out of doing it.
Look at the buttercup. Only one buttercup – not all of them. Write down another word. “Sturdy stem.” Oops, that’s two. Well, that’s okay. Feel the breeze on your cheek.
Maybe it’s time to eat the chilled raspberries in the refrigerator and describe them. How do they feel on your tongue? Take it slowly – see what words bubble up for you when you’re not trying to churn out an article or scene in your novel. You might be surprised at the metaphor that is trying to find its way onto your notepad.
Slow writing is about loving what you’re doing and being loved by it. Become intimate with your writing – savor it – treat it like a lover. You’ll be amazed how it reciprocates.
- A small favor
- Going to the movies in the afternoon
- Dressing up
- Cantering on a black horse across the moor
- Rereading ‘Lorna Doone’
- Spending a rainy afternoon exploring the attics
- Just before waking up