Slow Writing Movement

Exquisitecorpsebirthday20068 Andrew Gallix wrote a post on his Guardian blog about a movement he (sorta jokingly) invented called the Slow Writing Movement.  He wrote a thought-provoking post about it yesterday, making the point that with the advent of the word processor, writing has become faster, and with the Internet, publishing is fast, too.

"As a result, what often passes for fiction today would have been considered no more than an early draft a few years ago," Gallix says.  He goes on to define two schools of writers:  The Ionic, whose adherents write fast and furious, and the Platonic, who still believe in rewriting and revising, and who "belong to an aristocratic lineage which is at odds with our egalitarian times."   

Gallix takes the Ionic (read: fast) writers, including Georges Simenon, who apparently once promised (or threatened) to lock himself in a glass cage and write a novel in three days, and the nice people over at Nanowrimo, who encourage people to write a novel in a month, to task. 

The best line in the whole piece, however, is when Gallix levels his acid-pen at Jack Kerouac, whose work is lumped in with others such as The Surrealists, and referred to as "penis-extension tall tales of binge typing."  Lord, I love that sentence, even if I don’t agree with him.

I have to admit I’ve never actually read Kerouac, but I’ve always been fascinated with the automatic writing and the Surrealists’ Exquisite Corpse games.  And I am the biggest fan of Joseph Cornell on the planet.  But I digress.

While Andrew Gallix makes some good points about the preponderance of slap-dash writing in the world today, I am still a fan of fast writing.  Fast writing allows you to bypass your critic, and your ego, and the part of you that insists that everything be perfect and pretty.  It allows you to write directly from your heart, or your soul, or your spirit, or whatever you want to call it.  Because of all this, I believe that fast writing is the best way to allow a writer’s natural voice to emerge. 

BUT, and this is a really big BUT, after you’ve allowed the fast writing to emerge, the slow writing must follow.   Slow writing involves rewriting and revising and editing, and then doing it again.  And again.  And again.  This is the crucial part of writing that new writers sometimes miss.

New writers sometimes get stuck in the rush that comes from being totally engrossed in the writing.  Its like falling in love–and just as when you are in love with a person, you fall in love with the writing that results from this process.  Then you start to believe that no rewriting is necessary.

Ah, but trust me, you need to rewrite.  Very few pieces of writing come out fully formed and perfect on the first draft.  And when they do, they are channeled.  I don’t care what anybody says.

Writing is rewriting.  Period. 

So write fast at first and then go back and write slow. 

Image of an Exquisite Corpse graphic from Wikipedia, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license, and I sure hope I’m doing the attributions on the images right.

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2 Comments on "Slow Writing Movement"

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Andrew Gallix
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07/09/2007 08:17

Thanks a lot for the kind words. I actually agree with you. In fact, I’ve nothing against fast writing as long as it’s good. And I’ve nothing against Kerouac either. What bugs me is people who just write any old how, without even proofreading their text, and then expect people to waste their precious time reading them. Where I disagree with you is when you link spontaneous writing with authenticity — I’m not sure that’s always true.

Charlotte
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07/09/2007 09:54
Hmmm…I’m pondering your point that spontaneous writing is not always the most authentic. It is true, I’ve had the experience of writing something spontaneously that ends up feeling very inauthentic and forced. Then, no matter how much I revise, I am unable to do anything with it. On the other hand, there are those magical times when I bypass my critical mind and go right to the heart or soul or whatever you want to call the source of our authenticity, and that comes out as my truest writing voice. (And it still requires rewriting.) Wish I knew why it… Read more »
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