Thursday, April 12, 2007

Slow Down

Posted by Lynne

All my life I've been called fast. Oh no, not in that way. I mean finishing work in record time. Rushing to get here, there and everywhere. I'm afraid I've never been referred to as easy-going. Perhaps it's a cosmic lesson in patience that I should enter the world of writing and publishing. Here, everyone is required to slow down.

Prior to spending every stolen moment writing, I read. I devoured three or four books a week; books in almost all genres. Since I started writing non-fiction parenting books, a novel, blog posts and now freelance magazine pieces, I've spent less time reading. The reality, that there aren't enough hours in the day, is a sad one.

Recently, friend of our blog, Therese Fowler published a list of must reads on her blog. Though I could proudly say I'd read more than fifty percent of her suggestions, I couldn't say the same for Jane Smiley's list. In Smiley's, Thirteen Ways to Look at a Novel, she includes her one hundred and one suggested must-reads. Here I came in at a shabby fifteen percent. I admit I felt like a bit of a fraud as a writer. I haven't yet made time to read Toni Morrison's Beloved or Nabokov's Lolita.

I've been a tad overwhelmed of late with all the wonderful books I want to read, but struggle to find the time to read. And then I picked up a copy of a book Amy recommended last week. Francine Prose, author of Reading Like A Writer, gave me hope.

While Prose also includes a list of Books to be Read Immediately, she gives writers permission to perform what she calls a *close read*.

With so much reading ahead of you the temptation might be to speed up. But in fact it's essential to slow down and read every word. Because one important thing that can be learned by reading slowly is the seemingly obvious, but oddly under appreciated fact that language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes, the way a painter uses paint... we lose sight of the fact that words are the raw material out of which literature is crafted.

I'm certain I will always be a person for whom there are so many books, so little time. My I-haven't-read-it-yet shelf will always be burgeoning. Still it's nice to know that dipping into a classic to study the way a writer chose to handle a certain type of conflict is recommended. Or that reading a beloved book aloud is time well-spent. It's freeing. Permission to slow down has been granted. In fact, it's encouraged.

I love reading like a writer. Like at a banquet of desserts, I don't need to eat every cake. I simply need to savor each delicious bite I take.


Aprilynne Pike said...

"All my life I've been called fast. Oh no, not in that way."


I can totally relate to this. I have read my share of the classics, but ocassionally someone will mention an author and I'l just be like, "Wha?! Who?!?" and look like a total dork.

The lovely thing is that there will always be more great writers to read and this buffet is truly all you can eat!


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hi Maprilynne,

"Truly all you can eat." I love your extension of my analogy! I think the only way to handle the so many books, so little time issue is to keep reading. After I wrote the post, I pulled out Beloved and Lolita from my book shelf and vowed to read them next.


Larramie said...

And all my life I've savored every word, even the "the's," "a's," and's," "but's".... My thinking was (and still is) that the writer put them in a sentence for a reason and it's part of a unique, distinctive voice. If this slows me down at all, it's okay because I'm obviously enjoying the present -- i.e. the gift of a wonderful book.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


So true. Writers choose every last word. As I evolve as a writer, I learn that slowing down is a beautiful thing. Someday, I hope my book is a wonderful gift to someone.