THE ART OF SLOW WRITING – Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo
Of all the writing self-help books I’ve ingested recently, this one is probably the most helpful but the most badly named. It’s not about writing slowly at all. It’s about the tools a writer should be familiar with and possibly use to improve their craft. Nowhere does slowness enter into it unless it’s during the editing process at the end.
I appreciate these writing books where the author is trying to improve everyone’s writing by explaining the steps they’ve taken themselves. Ms. DeSalvo writes memoirs about her family, so I felt a couple times that things she recommended might not work for an action/adventure writer like myself, but perhaps I need to open my mind up a little and reconsider. Ms. DeSalvo is a scholar of analyzing other writers’ processes, especially Virginia Woolf, and she has lots of examples in her short, informative chapters of how professional authors deal with subjects such as process journals, desk layout, exercise, stagnation, collaboration, and rewriting. I learned some nugget in every chapter and even started a writing process journal (early in the day to plan out your writing assignments) and practiced her apprenticeship suggestion of retyping a chapter of a writer you admire to perhaps absorb some of their style and format.
I didn’t know Virginia Woolf only wrote 500 words a day, but she was into quality and not quantity.
The author mentions how important a schedule is for a writer. Establish a time of day to write uninterrupted and keep to it every day. Freshen it up by writing in new places, even outside. One thing that surprised me is that she doesn’t let anyone read her manuscript until it’s completely finished for fear that outside influences will alter the direction of her work. She also moves stuff around a lot more than I do in my linear writing.
I enjoyed this book so much for several reasons. First, she’s never authoritative. She doesn’t say we “must” do this or “should” do that. Part of using so many examples of other writers’ processes is to show that there is no right answer. Pick what works for you and stick with it. Another thing I appreciated was her positivity. So many of these books sound like cold lectures from a professor, but Ms. DeSalvo puts her own life lessons in some of the examples. Not too much (her relationship with her father was not good), but enough to show she knows what she’s talking about. She’s a published author of 19 (!) books so has street cred even if it’s not in my genre.
Not Slow Writing, but thoughtful appreciation for the various stages of a writer’s journey and many handy suggestions for making the path a little easier. Again, I found something to use in every chapter and have changed my writer processes as a result of reading this.
Thank you, Ms. DeSalvo,