Slow & Steady Tortoise
Slow and steady wins the race. Each July when the desert tortoises begin lumbering around our rural Arizona property, I’m reminded of this lesson from Aesop’s famed tortoise and the hare fable.
I am simply in awe of this creature, which imparts a certain wisdom through its patience and perseverance and is one of the most resilient creatures in the southwest. Desert tortoises (found only in the Sonoran Desert – my home – and the Mojave Desert) burrow to escape the heat, and they can survive long periods without food or water since they store water in their bladders.
Another wonder: these buggers really can cover some ground – even on very steep, rocky terrain. Multiple times, we’ve found juveniles crawling up the slick rock wall with agility and grace. Could it be those columnar, bowed-out legs?
And once, I saw a tortoise at the beginning of the week down by our house, only to find him the next day two mountain ridges over at the very top. Slow and steady wins the race.
I think everyone should have the privilege of seeing these wonderful creatures each year, delivering a subtle but wise reminder to slow down, take your time, and enjoy the journey. Scroll below for video.
For Writers: Very good friend and author Jessica McCann once said to me (when I was lamenting how much time my WIP was taking), “It takes however long it takes.” Slow and steady wins the race. Two popular theories seem to exist about the fiction writing approach, though:
1) The “creative” slow-and-steady approach: Fiction writing is a creative endeavor that calls upon the muse for inspiration. The best writing comes about when one isn’t rushed, when ideas can percolate, and when creative inspiration strikes.
2) The “job” approach: Fiction writing is like any other commitment or professional pursuit: dedicated time must be carved into the schedule. Daily routines, specific word counts, and targeted deadlines are paramount to completing a quality creative work.
I personally fall in the middle on this issue: I’m a freelance writer and understand the value of deadlines and committed work time. In fact, some of my best journalistic writing was created with a ticking clock in my ear. On the other hand, as I work on my WIP, I’m drawing connections and making discoveries about themes, characters, and symbolism – as well as gathering insight for scenes – that I likely would not have drawn if not for the extended period of time I’ve had to work on the piece.
What do you think? Can the process of writing a novel be a combination of both approaches? What if you’re on contract and deadline to finish a multi-book deal? In that situation, is it even possible (or necessary) to take a slow-and-steady tortoise approach to keep the creative juices flowing? Can you be creative when under pressure? What works for you?