When I’m in martial arts class, I’m struggling with the speed. Every form, every warm-up set, and every drill requires you think about, and act on, a huge number of factors all at once. Things such as body placement, posture, weight distribution, hand position, stance, eye focus, speed, precision, angle, breathing, power, intent… the list feels endless. And you think about all of those things in every position, and during every transition between positions.
It’s overwhelming, it’s way too fast, but if you don’t think about those things, you’ll never get better. Sure, you can go lightning fast if you want, but unless you’re very damn good and you’ve done it a million times already, you’re gonna cut corners.
This will come as no surprise, but writing is just as complicated as martial arts. We have so many things to think about when we’re writing. Things such as plot, characters, transitions, theme, rhythm, tone, pace, sensory details, intent, and just plain ol’ language, to name a few.
The nice thing about writing, is that for the most part, we have the luxury to go slow. No one is standing in front of our laptop calling out “Next sentence! Next sentence! Next paragraph! Next scene!” We set the pace of our own writing, and we can go as slow as we want… or as slow as we need. (This does not apply to people with deadlines, of course.)
Would I like to write more quickly? Hell yes. Productivity is more words is more money is more career… at least, that’s what it feels like from this end of slow.
But am I ready to write more quickly? No. Just like in martial arts, I would be doing myself a disservice to write fast before I’m ready; before I’m able to integrate the essential elements of storytelling and be comfortable at that speed. Many people say “just get the draft down,” but that really doesn’t work for me, in much the same way that I don’t want to fumble through a kung fu form and then go back and try to clean it up.*
Here’s what I’m saying: Writing, unlike martial arts, gives us the opportunity to learn and practice at our own pace. Instead of fighting that opportunity, perhaps I should embrace it.
* Just talking about my own experiences here. This methods works wonderfully for a lot of writers I know.
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