Slow Creativity?

I spent most of my life believing that I didn’t have the creativity necessary for writing fiction. I envied the writers I admired, and even some that I didn’t admire. How in the world did they think up those intricate plots, with all their twists and conflicts? When I discovered National Novel Writing Month, the first couple of years seemed to be proof that I’d been right. Then something clicked and I’ve been scribbling ever since.

I still have a problem with thinking of myself as truly creative, though. I still wonder how some writers manage to turn out those intricate plots at a speed that looks like lightning compared to my slow plodding. But something happened today that maybe creativity doesn’t have to be fast and agile. Maybe it can be slow. Think of the tortoise and the hare. What’s important is that you get there.

I’ve been working on The New Serfdom for what sometimes seems like forever, but it’s actually been just under a year since I wrote it. It was my winner for last year’s NaNoWriMo, but there was an air of discouragement hanging over the month, and I barely made it to 50,000 words. For the first time, I finished NaNo feeling that I had an awful mess on my hands.

Over the last year, the book has turned into something completely different from the original concept. It’s better than it was, but it’s been lacking something important. I figured out that it needed conflict, but even then, something was still missing. I knew there was one question I wanted to be able to answer, but I didn’t know if it was really important to the novel. I also wanted a larger role for one of the secondary characters, but didn’t know what that role should be.

A little while back, I did give that character more importance, but it wasn’t enough. I have to think that it was percolating in the back of my mind along with the unanswered question, because they came together today, and I know that now I can fill in that vague hole that’s been bothering me. The question is: who was Nolan’s mother? It turns out that the secondary character knows who she was and also knows something vital about Gil, the other primary character. When Gil learns all that, the whole balance of the novel changes.

So maybe there’s creativity that just has to be allowed to unfold at its own speed. I still wish it could have chosen better timing. Now that I finally have the key to last year’s NaNo novel, it’s making it hard to keep my mind on this year’s planning.

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5 thoughts on “Slow Creativity?

  1. “creativity that just has to be allowed to unfold at its own speed” I continue to learn this “own speed” lesson. It’s like algebra (for me). I don’t like it, and I easily forget it, but I can keep relearning.

    1. It’s easy to get impatient — and discouraged, especially when you see so many people churning out books like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

      I didn’t get algebra, either. At least writing makes sense.

  2. Great to hear you’ve finally fixed that problem. I’m a great believer in the slow method myself, Catana. The unconscious never stops working on plot problems and often throws stuff up years later, if the person can just have the trust and the patience. Most ‘fast’ writers are commercial genre writers and their work, while popular at the time, doesn’t last. (There are exceptions to this, of course, like Charles Dickens, but I believe they’re the exception rather than the rule.)

    1. I think that self-publishing, for all that I support it, may in some ways be damaging writers who might have the potential to accomplish great work. The drums are always beating for “write more, write faster.” On the Kboards forum and in advice blogs, it’s all about writing as a career, one that depends on writing enough to build a big fan base.

      1. I agree that indie publishing pushes quantity, not quality. I think it depends on what kind of author the person wants to be. Some writers simply want to be popular and successful in their lifetimes. Others have the temerity to hope that their work will live a little longer – and are prepared to take the extra time, because of that. Everybody’s different. Personally, I love the slow process, but that’s just me. I’ve always been a tortoise.

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