Sunday, August 22, 2010

The hare, the tortoise, and the roadkill

I have to make a confession. Since we also had an out of town wedding last weekend, I didn't give writing a lot of thought in the hustle of packing, traveling, doing weddingish stuff, and finally heading home to celebrate the weekend by doing mounds of laundry. I brought my computer, but I admit we only used it to mapquest for directions and to watch SG-1 episodes in the hotel room after the festivities were over.

But here we are in the second week of school, and things have calmed down a bit. The wedding is a memory, the kids and I have our printed schedules, and I'm taking a deep breath and remembering that even I can extract small amounts of spare time if I'm careful with my schedule. It's not a lot, but it's something.

You see, some writers are hares. They turn out a lot of copy daily. That's the best, of course. I'm not a hare, but I admire their ability to kick it out. Some writers are tortoises. This is the usual me. A tortoise turns out a little copy daily, but consistently. It's better than nothing, especially if you have very little extra time. I also try to use time fragments by carrying a notebook around with me. Hares are okay, and tortoises are okay. When it comes down to it, there's only one thing you must avoid becoming if you're a writer.


Roadkill is the writer who gets run over by life, meaning she didn't keep on writing. This past two weeks, I was in danger of becoming roadkill as I was overwhelmed by school preparation in combination with a trip. Let's contemplate what it means to become roadkill.

1. Roadkill doesn't move

Well, not unless you pick it up and throw it. It has lost the ability to move itself. As a writer, you might as well face the truth now. If you let yourself get run down by life, you have to be the one who cares, because no one else will. You have to keep yourself moving, word by word, draft by draft.

2. Roadkill stinks

The unfortunate truth is that first drafts always stink, even when you write all the time. But at least they can be fixed if you work on them. Happily, everything can be fixed. However, if you stop writing entirely, or are very sporadic, you will definitely stink, because you'll stop growing and learning as a writer.

3. Roadkill doesn't get a headstone or an epitaph

No one remembers the writers who never got around to writing down those great novels they had ideas for. Whenever I read about the number of rejections writers like Madeleine L'Engle got, I get a little gaspy. What if she had given up? We would have missed out on so many great books. I also find myself annoyed by early deaths of favorite writers like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. Who knows what awesome ideas these ladies had, but didn't have time to explore on paper? Alas, we just have to be content with the treasures they left us.

So let's recap.

• Being a hare is okay. You get a lot done over time. I'm not one at this time of my life, but my hat's off to you if you're a hare.

• Being a tortoise is okay. You are consistent and you don't quit. Someday, if you work hard, I believe you will succeed.

• Being roadkill is not okay. The turkey buzzards are watching for you from telephone poles and drooling. Don't give them the satisfaction of seeing you get run down. Keep moving.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my... a word to the wise is sufficient from the new Aesop.