Featured From the Archives: The Curse of Being a Slow Writer

Apologies for having to go archive-diving again this week. Let’s just say, it’s not been a great one for me and leave it at that. I wanted to find a post that could do what I couldn’t — bring some humor to my otherwise bleak mood — and this one seemed like the perfect fit. Snarky, but still inspiring, it’s a good reminder for anyone struggling to find time to write. Even if it doesn’t apply to you, I hope it will at least bring a smile to your face. After all, laughter is the best medicine, or so they say. 😉

The Curse of Being a Slow Writer

by Kisa Whipkey

(Originally Posted on 5/31/13)


I don’t think it’s news to anybody that I am the equivalent of a sloth when it comes to writing fiction. At least, it shouldn’t be. I’ve said it quite a few times. But usually, I try to put a positive spin on that fact, embracing my molasses-covered words and declaring it proudly, like it’s some kind of statement of quality. But the truth is, it sucks. It is the single most frustrating thing in my writing career. So today, I’m going to indulge in a moment of venting negativity. Today, I’m not going to try to convince you that it’s okay to be slow; that it’s all right to procrastinate with research, or editing, or any of the other excuses I’ve told myself are justifications for slackerhood. Because it isn’t. If you want to make it in this industry, you have to be prolific. That’s just a fact.

We had a saying at Dragon Heart Tang Soo Do: “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll have to be a horrible warning.” So let me be your horrible warning. Being a slow writer isn’t a blessing, it’s a curse. Here are the top 5 reasons you don’t want to be me.

#1: Limited Productivity Potential

At my current rate, I’ll be lucky to finish a novel a decade. And since I also conveniently dragged my feet in deciding to take my writing career seriously, that means I’m joining the party late. So that puts my productivity level at direct odds with the amount of life I have left. If (fingers crossed) nothing horrific happens, I could potentially be looking at a long and happy life. But how much of that will I realistically spend writing? I’m going to say that probably by my 70’s, I’ll be running out of oomph, and likely, Carpal Tunnel will get me before then. So, given my late admittance that I really wanted to be a writer after all, that optimistically gives me a productivity potential of 4 books. (4?! That’s pathetic. This is why I dislike math; it never pans out in my favor!)

Now, say you were smarter than me and realized early on that you were destined to write for a living. I’m not so ancient that you’d have that much of a head start. Most people figure out their life’s passion during their twenties, and a lucky few know by their late teens. So at best, you’re a book and a half ahead of me. That’s still not a rosy picture of successful writerdom. I suppose there is a chance that you don’t see yourself being prolific. That you only have one or two titles in you and then plan to call it good. But I think the majority of us choose to be writers because we’re bursting with ideas waiting to find their way to the page. Am I wrong?

Which leads us to reason #2 why you don’t want to be me.

#2: Royally Pissed Off Plot Bunnies

The thing about plot bunnies is they breed like, well, bunnies. I have yet to go longer than a month without finding another cute and fluffy little detour hopping innocently across my path. (Innocently? Yeah, right. Those little buggers know my muse can’t resist them. They’re about as innocent as creepy children in a horror film.) So when I compare my maximum potential output (the measly 4 books) to the avalanche of rabbit fur weighing me down, you can guess what happens.

Personally, I don’t want face the legions of plot bunnies running around in my head when they realize that only 4 will ever get their moment in the spotlight. They’ll probably start a riot. They might even turn carnivorous. I don’t know. But I do know that they’ll be royally pissed off, and that can’t be good for my muse. Or anyone, really.

So unless you’re one of those rare writers content to write only a couple books, I’m guessing you’ll be facing the same predicament. And in case the thought of angry, carniverous plot bunnies hasn’t scared you away from my path of slackerness, let’s move on to reason #3.

#3: Getting Lost in the Discoverability Jungle

It’s a well-known fact that the fastest way to gain momentum in a writing career is to continually publish new content. Whether you’re self-publishing (especially if you’re self-publishing) or traditionally published, name recognition is everything. In an ever-growing jungle of titles, being prolific enough to constantly have your work in front of readers is the only way to survive. No problem, right? I just established that, like me, you have a plethora of ideas to choose from. “Prolific” will be easy!

Hear that screeching of the brakes? Yeah, you forgot about one key element — reason #1. When you’re as slow as I am, your chances of consistently staying on your readers’ minds goes out the window. I’ll survive in the Amazon jungle about as long as a fruit fly with that level of productivity. There’s no amount of marketing in the world that can save me from sinking into the mire of oblivion.

Pretty convincing case for not being me, no? But, just for kicks, let’s say the issues of discoverability aren’t really that bad. That I’m being over dramatic in my snarkiness. (I did warn you I would be venting negativity.)

Welcome to reason #4.

#4: Being Stuck in a Permanent Day Job

Every writer dreams of waking up every day and spending the entire time writing. But the reality is that most of us still have to work day jobs. The fridge doesn’t fill itself, unfortunately, and the bill collectors don’t look kindly on IOU’s. So chances are, unless you’re secretly a billionaire, married to a billionaire, or homeless, you need some source of income. Where do you get it? The dreaded day job.

Now, some of you may be lucky enough to actually have a career you enjoy. But the rest of us punch the time clock like we’re signing in for a prison sentence. The only thing that gets us through the day is that shiny dream of someday getting to say “F you!” to the boss and walking away with certain fingers held high.

But what happens to that shiny dream when you write like a snail? It shrivels up and disappears. Yep, that’s right, your shiny dream is now a rotting, wrinkled hunk that looks like a dried apricot. Why? Because you’re too slow to be considered prolific. And since you’re not prolific, no one knows who you are. And because no one knows who you are, your books don’t sell. And when your books don’t sell, you get to offer that chicken-scratched IOU to the bank and pray they let you keep your house.

Such a pretty picture isn’t it? I think I’m rather gifted at casting the most depressing slant ever on the situation. But in case you missed the lesson in that dreary portrayal, let me reiterate it. If you don’t want to be stuck permanently in that day job you hate, don’t be me!

#5: The Burden of Emotional Turmoil

By now, I hope you’re seeing the downfall of succumbing to the slow-writing curse. If not, (man, you’re a hard cookie to convince!) here’s one final reason.

I’ve already covered the practical, tangible reasons it sucks to be a slow writer. But there’s also an emotional aspect. When you move with the agility of a tortoise, you tend to find yourself battling things like frustration, irritation, depression, anger, all the lovely turmoil that goes with swimming in the negative side of life. That self-doubt all writers experience? Yeah, quadruple it about a gazillion times. That lure of perfectionism? You’ll be chasing after it like a siren’s song. The regret over letting your dream slowly starve to death and die? You’ll carry it around until you start to look like Atlas, carrying the world on his back.

My point is, eventually, you’ll find yourself so immersed in the quicksand of negative emotions that you’ll end up writing a blog post just like this. 😉

So, there you have it. The top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t be me; why you shouldn’t succumb to the curse and let your writing career languish on the back burner. If you already find yourself hovering dangerously close to joining my sinking ship, don’t despair. There’s still hope. All you have to do is kick your lazy booty into gear. Figure out where you have the time to write and commit to it, even if it means sacrificing sleep, weekends, and watching Celebrity Game Night. (Seriously, though, that last one’s not a sacrifice. Whoever decided that sitting around watching celebrities play board games was quality television needs to be fired. Immediately.) You can do it. I have faith in you. In fact, how about we make a pact? Let’s take all the negativity and turn it on it’s head. Let’s laugh in the face of frustration and prove to everybody, including ourselves, that we do have what it takes to be writers, and we can be prolific. Let’s break the curse together. Deal?


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