A few years ago, my sister sent me a link to a blog on a couple’s “slow travel” adventures. I’d never heard of slow travel, and I found the concept fascinating, this whole idea of going to a place, staying there for an extended period of time, and really getting to know it. Traveling slowly, savoring the experience, the people, the places.
I used to follow this blog and get updates, but I haven’t heard from this couple in years. Perhaps they stopped blogging, moving on to other creative endeavors.
Now in a search of “slow travel,” the search results return businesses and instructions on how to do it rather than stories on the experiences of it. I clicked on two that looked promising but one’s most recent post was titled (I kid you not), “Guide to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration” which feels like the antithesis of slow travel.
The other one had links to Equipment and Money Saving Ideas as you travel around in your motorhome. Such is the evolution of the internet, more about the “how-to” of a thing rather than the sharing of the experience merely because it was experienced.
I point this out because the whole idea of “Slowness” of moving through the world, of experiencing it, of acting within it slowly is something that we don’t celebrate and embrace, at least here in the U.S. It’s not our standard way of being, of showing up.
This is why I was originally so drawn to the idea of slow travel. The concept of slowness in travel absolutely intrigued me. Travel doesn’t have to be about seeing and doing as much as humanly possible in a short period of time? It can be about diving deep and getting a sense of the people and a place, having conversations, taking long walks, exploring?
That sounds SO much more gratifying to me.
What is “slow” to me as a writer, as a creative?
I find this concept of slowness both highly appealing and comforting whether it’s in travel, writing, or just life in general. While I tend to be a high-energy person – I talk fast, move fast, act on ideas quickly – I also love slowing down to enjoy a good meal, take a walk, or write in my journal.
There’s a balance that I’m always playing with and exploring.
It’s funny that I was first introduced to slowness in an area that I’d never considered applying it to (travel) by a now-lost slow travel blog. And in searching for this blog, I learned about a book called In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore that was published in 2004 and focuses on the negative aspects of focusing on speed and productivity as a foundational value.
Apparently, this little tome (that I completely missed when it was published) started a revolution of slowness (that I also completely missed) since I’m having my own little epiphany on the value of slowness almost two decades later.
But I guess, that’s fairly apropos. I’m a little slow getting to the slow party! While I was introduced to slow travel a decade ago, it has taken that long for me to realize that this is how I enjoy moving through the world too.
If 2021 has taught me anything, slowness and diving deep give so much meaning to my life and my work. I’m not sure I ever really understood that “slow” is one of my underlying values until this year.
Looking at how slowness pervades so much of my life while I also know that I run a lot of energy and move fast feels a bit paradoxical, yet it’s exactly right.
Embracing slowness as a creative, as a business owner, as a writer feels like putting on my cozies at the end of the day and curling into the comfiest corner spot of our couch.
What’s funny is that I’ve never thought of myself as one who embraces slowness.
But when I look at my creative life, I can see it everywhere. Books take time to develop and write, and I enjoy taking my time whether that’s in the plotting/research phase or the drafting phase where I pause to do character development and more ideation. Slowing down helps me to do much better work. And it’s much more enjoyable.
Pushing myself to write faster this year created stress and even more migraines than I’d had in years. Ugh. No thank you. And, I didn’t write any faster! I finally finished the first draft of The Fiddler’s Son when I slowed down and embraced my own personal pace. Publishing more than one or two books a year (f that) won’t happen.
I take my time on quilts, moving through and between projects as I feel inspired by them. In fact, I’ve recently picked up two quilt projects that I started years and years ago and finally have the perfect way to finish them.
I love a long walk, a long slow trip, reading a long series or a good long novel – Diana Gabaldon and Ken Follett anyone?
It took me almost a full year before I hung any pictures on the walls in our new home because I wanted to “get to know my house first.” It had to tell me where things went, and I had to listen.
It’s who I am and somehow, I’m just now figuring that out at fifty-one years old. Better late than never!
Embracing slowness as a writer
Slowing down means allowing for my creative process to happen on its own timeline rather than on external deadlines. While I can meet those and often do, my preference is to act on writing ideas as I feel inspired. I like stepping into them, playing with them, sorting through them, organizing, playing some more, talking them out with myself on a walk or with another creative soul. For me, this is where the joy in creativity comes.
Once I commit is when I begin to set external deadlines for myself to actually do the work, but the content ideas come build in the slowness of my creative process.
I enjoy taking time to explore my ideas and writing the stories and pieces that I’m called to write. I’ve written and write women’s fiction, historical fiction, and two contemporary mysteries and even an unpublished YA mystery.
I know that I have a non-fiction book in me as well, but that one’s still incubating. I might even have a memoir, either something about parenting or possibly a migraine memoir, though I’m not sure I want the container for my memoir to focus on physical pain. There’s a story there though, and it’s not an inspirational healing story. It’s one on learning to listen to my body, to succumb to it in some ways. In fact, even as I write this I just made the connection that migraines absolutely, without question slow me down. It’s almost like my body saying, live your values.
Just gave myself a little chill there!
These ideas for all of these books and for quilt ideas that I have marked in magazines are waiting. There’s no rush here. Rushing any of them would take the joy out of creating them.
Creating happens slowly. That’s where it’s the most fun and enjoyable.
Why can “Slow” feel hard?
We live in a world of fast, of producing, of productivity. Books like Atomic Habits, which I have read and enjoyed, sit on the NYT bestseller lists for weeks and months on end, as do memoirs of highly successful people. We want to know, how did they do it? How did they achieve success? How can I do it, too?
Americans value a strong work ethic which often looks like getting a lot done rather than diving in and doing something deeply and well, slowly.
Slowness isn’t celebrated in this country in the same way productivity is, but sometimes we find our best ideas and have the most fun with our creative endeavors with slow writing, slow creativity. Sometimes doing something slowly looks like doing nothing at all, like staring out the window. You might be working really damn hard on a scene but it looks like…staring out the window.
And that’s why slow can feel hard. We don’t value it. Well, some don’t. I do.
I find it interesting as I age that I’m finally now, in mid-life, unearthing some of the core values that have driven me throughout my life but that I’ve never recognized or I’ve ignored (at my own peril) because they don’t reflect cultural or societal or even familial values that have influenced me.
This year, slowness has percolated to the surface as something that I not only enjoy but that I need to practice, to cultivate in my life for my health, for my well-being, and for my own sense of contentment.
It’s a core value of mine, and I’ll be embracing it from here on out, rather than trying to banish it and write faster (like I did for much of 2021). This is about allowing myself to create AS me, rather than how the world dictates I should.
How do you feel about embracing a slower approach to your creative work? Does it scare you? Or do you feel like, “Duh, you’re just figuring this out now, Amy”?