Sunday, September 18, 2011


I have always wanted to be one of those Zen-like relaxed people who nod and listen and never worry. This past summer, a woman I met was talking to me about yoga. I figured if I tried yoga, I would become more Zen-like and calm. Right? Isn't that how it works?

While she was showing me some of the positions, I was following what she did as fast as I could. Finally, in a softly, barely perceptible tone, she said, "Anne, you don't rush through yoga. You have to let things flow more."


So I did. I relaxed. Well, I thought I relaxed. I slowed down and tried to look sort of beatific and focused at the same time which is how she looked. (Go ahead - try to look that way; it's not as easy as it sounds) She finally said we should try it on a day when I wasn't quite so harried. 


Only I wasn't particularly harried on that day. That's kind of how I am. I tend to speak and move quickly, put on dinner while folding laundry, talking on the phone, and going through the mail. I have trouble driving at the speed limit. I never leave the house for only one errand: I average about four. I figure out my lesson plans while I'm grocery shopping, organize my paperwork while on the bank line, think about writing while doing dishes.

I think I'm just geared sort of twitchy, and the yoga woman is geared more gently. It's pretty much inbred. I couldn't imagine her saying to her kids, as I regularly do, "Salad or colon cancer?" "Sun block or melanoma?" or get texts back such as, "Mom, don't think I'm dead! I just had no service in the mall." No one in our house bats an eye at any of this. Then again, the yoga woman had no kids...

But I think, too, how we move, how we are geared has an effect on our writing. I don't think Emily Dickinson moved too fast - she noticed things like grasshoppers and that certain slant of light - whereas when I read Dr. Seuss, I would think from the pace of his writing that he would be a little more twitchy than most.

I'm revising a YA, yet again, and that's what I realized about it: it has a rushed quality that it can't have since it deals with a serious theme. Well, yeah, I was writing most of this late at night, and rushing, and it shows. But I put it away for a month and only noticed that during a fresh read when I was moving more slowly. 

I was contemplating how I would slow down the pace, how I would make the story unfold more easily while deleting all the spam from this blog. So in case you're wondering what happened to all the comments, I was rushing and accidentally deleted YOUR comments and not the spam. There's a lesson there. 

Still, I think I'm onto something. Rushing makes for thin, undeveloped writing. Maybe even if you're not geared to move quickly when you're writing and trying to finish, it will show. I'm wondering now if that's the essence of revision - slowing things down, having scenes and characters unfold more slowly?


storyqueen said...

I just revised a scene last night that suffered from exactly what you are talking about. The dialogue was great, but I hadn't grounded the characters enough in the scene. It read very "rushedly" which is not good.

I think lots of moms who work have to multi-task far more often than is good for anybody.


Bish Denham said...

I think we only think we multitask. Ultimately we can still only do one thing at a time, just we can only focus our eyes on one thing at a time. The object then, when you have several things to do, is to slow down and give each as much of your full attention as you can. Then it's less likely that mistakes will be made. And in the end, everything will get done eventually.

Yoga, particularly the learning how to breathe part, is very good at helping one to focus, to slow down. And...I'm still learning. I hope you'll keep it up.

CHULALA said...

lets follow each other

Anne Spollen said...

I've done exactly that, Shelley. Only I didn't attribute it to rushing - I thought it was more a matter of listening to the voices in my head. Know how that happens when you're writing?

And yeah, they do. We're usually on overload.

You are right, Bish. I've noticed "lapses" in my doing things, like, Did I give the cats water? Wait, did I pass the exit for work? Yup, I do that sometimes.

And I don't think I'm cut out for yoga. Maybe I should give it another shot though.

Marcia said...

I, too, suspect we only think we multitask. Though I've never timed it, my impression is that it takes me about the same amount of time to do three things at once as it would take to do the three consecutively. And i DO think revision gives us the slow-down that we need, especially for "fast drafters," which I am not. But still.

Nathan Buck said...


I think you're onto something. Funny, you and I are alike in our daily routines and habits -- my boyfriend has nicknamed me "Hummingbird" -- but when it comes to my writing I do go to that slow, crawl-y place. I think it's something of the perfectionist in me, too, since I revise as I go. I used to think this was a no-no, but I realized that "writing rules" aren't written in the stars. So hence I write at a snail's pace. But heck, it's working (I think). Thanks for this great blog entry.


Anne Spollen said...

I do that too, Nathan! I'll stare at the paragraph on page 8 because until I get that word, that one word or phrase just right, I just can't move onto the next paragraph. Then I rush through the rest of my day.

I revise as I write - then I revise when I'm done wriitng. Glad you're writing something new!

Anonymous said...

So many of us are rushed these days.

I've become a slow writer, when I used to write fast. Rejection turned me into a slower writer, so I put manuscripts away and look at them later, and I'm better at developing plot and characters.

Other than that, I do things fast and multi-task.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm a fast walker and talker, and I always like to have my hands busy with some kind of work, even when I'm talking to someone. But I'm a very slow eater and a slow writer.

My walking partner is a yoga teacher, and she's got that beatific look down pat. But she also has three children, a dog, and a mess of horses. I give her a lot of credit for managing that look with her hectic lifestyle.