It takes as long as it takes by Alberta Ross

It has been a peculiar second half of the year with various things happening to thwart my burning desire to catch up and meet self- imposed deadlines on myself.  Alas LIFE has different plans for me, and I am forced to bow my head (just an slight incline you understand:) before Life’s dictates.

One of the outcomes of this enforced delay is that I have spent more time watching television.  I don’t on the whole find much to watch and if I have a spare few hours I prefer to curl (manner of speech these days) with a good or indifferent book (prefer the first of course).  However, I have watched some very interesting programs, hidden gems I would probably missed in the normal way. One of which was an interview with Donna Tart.

I don’t know if any/all/ of you are readers of Donna Tart, she is one of my favorites, despite the scarcity of her work.  I read The Secret History in 1992 and The Little Friend in 2002 – a gap of a decade – what??   Didn’t she realize I had been waiting impatiently  to read another of hers:) now I hear her third has arrived, after another decade, The Goldfinch.  Ten years each in the writing.  When I saw the interview was on I couldn’t wait – ‘no interruptions’ I declared, as I settled down

So why am choosing this spot to witter on about an author who only has three books to her name? Why, because I and, I suspect many others of us, forget sometimes that it is not the speed with which we create our minor masterpieces; and they are, they are, let no one dissuade you, no not the speed but the quality of what we deliver.

Some authors do manage one, two or maybe three a year, others take ten, twenty years to write one.  Watching Donna Tart explain the details of her planning , research and writing relaxed my frantic

‘I’m late, I’m late’ White Rabbit moments. Not that I wish to wait a decade between books – at my age that is a luxury I don’t possess, but I do want The Children’s Tale to be a good read and if I spend too much time agonizing on how slow the writing of it is, I am not letting be a good read.

I personally like word count meters , like to measure how far I have progressed in a given day/week/month. However, those word count meters mean little if I just churn out words.

Self imposed deadlines helped ensure I began this writing life, however they make less sense when I have the habits and the confidence.  All they do is add pressure and stress unnecessarily.

I have also noticed that this extra time needed has produced more interesting layers to the story, better characterization.  There is time for research, time to re-arrange and develop the tale.

It doesn’t matter if the story takes time to be created, some creations take time. It is as simple as that.  Humans, being human, just love to fret and  we are so good at it.

A short while with Donna Tart helped to remind me that not knocking the WIP out in a year, and probably not in two years, is not the end of my world, the work is slowly but surely unfurling itself and one day (not even thinking of a date at moment:) it will emerge – I hope as perfect as a butterfly.

So I am saying that time is,  can be, as good as speed. Creating, from scratch, a new tale, new characters, new plots is to create a minor masterpiece, If we are lucky our offerings may become great masterpieces or even works of pure genius but I am content (at the moment:) with minor.

And masterpieces of any size or magnitude require the amount of time they require. So why tie ourselves into knots? Relax and enjoy the creation:)

~*~

Alberta Ross

9 comments

  1. Just what I needed to hear. I think I’m going to take a different approach next round with my novel, measuring progress less by speed than feeling really awesome about each scene. And scene by scene, it will get there. Thanks!

  2. thank you ladies – it has taken me a long time to stop beating myself up – but am relaxing into a new mode of approaching my writing time – spurred on by Donna Tart:)

  3. So often the push is ‘more more more’, as if the world for us will end if we don’t have steady sales that keep the (so-called) temperamental and impatient readers satisfied. But really, that depiction, while probably valid in a (very) few situations, is demeaning to both author and reader.

    I sometimes think the world might be a bit better off without so many books written just because someone felt they needed to write something to say they ‘did it’. If writing is something to check off a list or writing is a ‘Hey! I can do that.’ thing for you, are you really trying to write a good story?

    Yes, there is the need to pay bills. There are pressures of the market where countless choices may draw away readers who have limited time to indulge themselves….

    Write the best book you can write anyway, take the time you need to do it… and those readers may come back. Certainly some others will step in the places of those who don’t.

    I ‘knew’ all of this, but I really needed to read it, here now, and in this moment when I was allowing myself to get less and less done on my stories because I felt the panic of a self-imposed deadline. Thank you, Alberta.

    1. I think we can get consumed with all the speed of the world now – all the opportunities – like being on a roundabout – just keeps getting faster and more intense. It seemed to me there were a lot of folk this year who were getting depressed with not getting there, fighting LIFE all the time – me included – we ‘know’ as you say – just need to remind ourselfs sometimes. My health problems have forced me to take stock so some good has come from them- silver linings I love them:)

      1. Reminds me of a book I read once called The Gift of a Bad Back. It was all about how being forced to lay back and let the world take care of itself for a while really helped a woman discover herself and what really mattered….

        Definitely! Enjoy your silver linings, Alberta. >>HUGS<<

  4. Thanks Alberta, a lovely and timely (ha ha!) reminder that I needn’t feel so rushed all the time. I hadn’t heard of Donna Tart! Must add her to the wishlist.

    1. Start them in order – they are not related in any way but her writing changes markedly over the intervening decades which makes an interesting read even if the stories weren’t so damned good:)

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