Last Friday I finished reading Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing. I highly recommend the book for any artist. It offers wonderful advice on the creative process explaining the benefits of investing your time to fully achieve your authentic voice. As DeSalvo explains in the opening introduction:
Slow writing is a meditative act. It acknowledges that we are all beginners and insists we cultivate empathy for ourselves because being a writer isn’t easy. Slow writing is a way to resist the dehumanization inherent in a world that values speed. It’s one way to find – or return to – our authentic selves.
DeSalvo’s book reminds us to step back and allow time for ideas to grow. My favorite quote from one of the early chapters that helped shift my perspective on my craft:
By viewing writing as practice rather than accomplishment can be a valuable shift in perspective. Instead of thinking, “I want to become a writer as quickly as I can,” we can try this: “I will dedicate as much time as I must to learn my craft.”
Also peppered throughout the book are examples from other well-established writers on the “role of waiting in the creative act.”
Many of us try to rush the creative process. But, as [Ian] McEwan’s process illustrates, and as [Victoria] Nelson asserts, it often takes time “for an imaginative idea to grow to full term in the unconscious …” If we proceed “entirely by ego command,” we’re likely to subvert “this mostly invisible gestation period.” As writers, we need to cultivate the twin traits of “[s]urrendering and listening” but this will be impossible unless we give up our struggle to control our artistic process, unless we cease engaging in what Nelson calls a “solipsistic master-slave struggle for control over yourself.
While I was reading TAoSW, I also happened to read about the artist Agnes Denes in Lives and Works Vol 2. Agnes Denes’ process coincides with DeSalvo’s advice because Denes takes a lot of time to research and experiment before she completes most of her projects, which can take up to several years like her artist book, the Book of Dust.
The running theme in both books is that anything worthwhile takes time and, sometimes, waiting is necessary in order to gain a deeper understanding into your work. Another aspect of the process is allowing yourself to experiment and fail so that one’s creative growth can develop further. It’s okay to make mistakes! Make lots of them! It’s all part of the learning process.
What has helped you in your creative journey?