Tortoises rule.

Aesop’s Fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, haunts me every time I pass a slower-paced car (meaning one that is driving the legal speed limit) thinking I am going to get to where I’m headed a bit faster. 

I come up behind a car that is actually obeying the speed limit, while everyone else is buzzing out and around it, and I continue to follow for a while and then it happens: I decide I don’t want to drive along at a turtle’s pace any longer, and I’ll whip my car out and around Steady Sam. The speed feels good and I keep the gas pedal mashed and *slightly* over the limit, but just ahead is the stoplight. As I need the lane that Steady Sam is in, I have to turn on my signal and pull back in—just ahead of him—because I want to be in the correct lane for turning. 

And dang if it doesn’t happen every single, stinkin’ time. Just as I finish pulling in ahead of Steady Sam, the light changes from the green I thought was going to let me slip through and get me on my way quicker—to red and I am stopped. I look in my rear view mirror and there he is—directly behind me. 

If you are honest with yourself, you know that you have done this more than once in your life. 

I feel like such a dolt when this happens. Every single time—I kid you not—I never gain a thing. I get nowhere any faster than if I’d just remained patient—drove legal, logical and loyal to the steady pace that was mine all along.  

Over the years I’ve read various friends’ writings at their request. They say:  “I’m done with it. I’m ready to send it out.” I start reading their copy and not far into it I feel the thing reads more like a rough second draft than a finished product; there is no way their work is ready to go. It becomes obvious that they want to be done with it, and had no intention of considering any critical critique that anyone might offer.  

I ran into another writing acquaintance recently who told me nearly 200 agents had rejected his printed novel, and he was fed up with it all. The first thing that popped up in my mind was: “If you’ve approached that many agents and haven’t gained any insight at all maybe you sorta’ oughta’ take one giant step back and try to figure out what might be holding up the show here . . .” 

You need to understand that I’d seen the book. One does not need an MFA to know that it was not ready to go to the self-publishing press he’d used. The first several pages were gross with obvious grammatical errors and paragraph spacing inconsistencies that someone should have caught. They did this way too fast, and he ended up with junk. 

It is imperative to pay attention to as many of the little details as you can.

If sprinting hasn’t worked, it’s time to slow down and walk for a bit. You’ll have more time to benefit from insights gained that are hard to take in when all you are seeing is the finish line. 

So having written this, do you think I’ll be able to resist tearing around someone on the roadway the next time? :-p

Let’s just say—I’ll really try.


2 thoughts on “Tortoises rule.

  1. Words of wisdom and every author should value the time they have with their manuscript because that is when they have the best and most control of its destiny.

    It has occured to me that too many writers create drafts with little regard to the outcome as they write with a “will and intent” that someone else is going to “fix it” so it doesn’t matter. To be honest that was me the first book I hired my wonderful and sensitive freelance editor to edit. It became an embarrassment to me that he probably thought me illiterate after painstakinly going through it.

    I tried to be better in the future. I also realized the idea of a “magical fix in editing” by that “pie in the sky” editor has gone the way of the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa. I had to put my big girl panties on and work a little harder. My biggest thrill has been when my editor asks me to do an edit scan on his work. HE TRUSTS ME?????????? WOW.

    Great reflective and instructive piece, Rebecca. Loved it and if taken to heart, many will benefit. And cherish the opportunity to spend time with your words and edit them. Old age may be a cruel taskmaster and affect your sight in a way you will be dependent on others, and believe me, that is a nightmare for a whole different discussion.

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