You Can’t Hurry Love . . or Anything Else Good

OK, short and sweet today, as it is my birthday. All greetings gratefully accepted, and in the immortal words of Eubie Blake: “If I’d known how long I was going to live, I would have taken better care of myself.”

First: the news. There will be an in-person launch event for The Last Altruist at Longfellow Books in Portland on September 21 at 6:30 PM. Longfellow Books has been a long time supporter of the Elder Darrow books and I hope you’ll find a way to give them some of your book business. We are blessed in this city to have so many options. If you’re unable to attend the launch, you can pre-order signed and/or inscribed copies from Kelly’s Books to Go. Enough with the commercials. Let’s talk about speed.

No, not that kind. Pace.

I recently started into the fourth draft of a new novel, knowing I still had a great deal of work to do in terms of character depth and smoothing out the plot.

Knowing what a slow writer I am, I wondered if I couldn’t speed up my process a little by doubling the number of pages I worked with in my daily session and thereby halve the time I spent on this draft. As you might predict, I tried this for three days and discovered I was so intent on getting the pages “done” that I wasn’t paying anywhere near enough attention to the quality of what I was doing. So I relapsed.

Those of you who know my good wife will recognize her as a highly energetic type who thrives on getting things done. (When Anne and I had marital counseling before the event, the minister accused me of “plowing a slow straight furrow.” It was New Hampshire.)

One of the enduring push-pulls in our marriage has been between my slow straight furrow and her reflexive drive for action. We must have figured something out, because we’ve made the partnership last this long, but I was thinking on my long (slow) walk this morning about all the things that cannot be improved by speed.

Portland is a harbor for fine chefs and fine meals. With the pandemic waning somewhat, we’ve gotten out more than we had been. Any meal we’ve had in one of our fine restaurants has not been something to gulp and chew.

Reading is another of my deepest pleasures and though sometimes I find myself impatient with a writer and try to get ahead, my best reading experiences are when I slow myself down enough to savor the good words and taste the ideas fully.

You will have your own list of activities that profit from a slow hand: breadmaking, gardening, cooking, flyfishing. Shelling peas, hulling strawberries. I know Diana Ross knows “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

What hurts us sometimes is the feeling that the pressure is always on, that it is better to get something done quickly (and possibly half-assed) than to render it slowly and carefully. It’s not out of the question to posit, though, that the path to joy is through slowness. As always, however, your mileage (and speedometer) may vary.

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8 Responses to You Can’t Hurry Love . . or Anything Else Good

  1. Anonymous says:

    Happy birthday, Dick!

  2. Kate Flora says:

    Happy Birthday and thank you for this reminder. I always like fresh words better than revision and always have to work at slowing down and taking the time to make it better.

  3. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Happy birthday! Lately for me everything is slower, and it’s not intentional, LOL. But these are definitely words of wisdom.

  4. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Wise words, Dick. There’s a lot to be said for plowing a straight furrow.

    Happy Birthday!

  5. John Clark says:

    Years ago, I realized that the difference between contemplation and obsession is the speed at which you think.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Happy Birthday! And a slow, straight furrow seems like a good plan to me.

  7. Alice says:

    Many wishes for a great day – – mine was yesterday, 83 years!

  8. But all things in moderation – even slowness. There is always another way to write sequence of computer code, but is it getting better or is it just different? Learning to “Just let go” is also an art. Slowly taking a little bit more off a sculpture can result in a pile of dust. The pace itself is part of the art.

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