Moseying back to slow writing

A while ago, I wrote about how I am a naturally slow writer. This didn’t serve me so well as a newspaper reporter—the necessary superficialities of stories banged out on deadline frustrated me. I am happier writing for magazines and books, where part of the idea is to arrive at dense, layered writing, the product of much rumination and even more crafting.

That doesn’t mean that “slow writing” leads to long narratives. Much of what stretches out the time it takes to arrive at something truly satisfying is taken up with cutting less-than-great material, arranging and rearranging sentences, and trimming any word not necessary for meaning or music.

One of my favorites quotes about how long it takes to write something short comes from Blaise Pascal:

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte:

In a letter to a friend, Pascal lamented, “I would not have made this so long except that I haven’t had the leisure to make it shorter.”

Many other writers have also considered the importance of slow, thoughtful writing. Today their musings often come in response to the demands of our hyperfast, hyperlinked world. They borrow from or respond to the ideas behind slow-food and slow-travel.

Recently, Maria Lavis explored the value of slow writing and slow reading in her blog. If you’re looking for more on the topic, try some of the articles Maria Lavis references: Christopher Gronlund’s post in praise of slow writing, Michael Duffy’s review of Reuben Bower’s “Reading in Slow Motion,” and Brad Hughes post on starting a slow-writing movement.

Then feel free to comment. Or think for a long time, play with words, then comment.


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