Why do I write like I’m running out of time?

The most common question I get regarding my NaNoWriMo word count is “How on earth do you write so fast?” The answer to this question isn’t very interesting: a childhood of typing games to make my fingers catch up with my brain, butt in chair, hands on keyboard, a willingness to embrace whatever happens next in the story even if I have no idea what’s going on. Years of practice is not what the asker wants to hear.

Question number two is usually “Why on earth do you write so fast?” While these two questions do have some overlap in their answer, the answer to this question is much more interesting.

Readers who have been around for awhile may remember that I’m a pretty anxious person. This anxiety fuels my writing, not just in worrying what other people think about my words (although that nagging in my head is persistently there), but in getting the words down in the first place.

My writing process is best described as a two-player game of Tag. The inner critic is It, and it’s chasing me around the field, trying to tag me. Except when the inner critic tags me, the game’s over. The only way for me to win is to keep running, keep writing. I may be a slow runner, but my fingers will give most people a challenge if they want to keep up.

When I’m writing at a breakneck pace, I sometimes reach a pace where my fingers can’t keep up. This results in typos everywhere that I don’t bother to correct after multiple attempts. That’s fine and good, but more importantly, writing as fast as I can means the inner critic can’t keep up. There’s no time to correct a turn of phrase when the next sentence is already formed in my mind, and writing it down is the best way to ensure it doesn’t leave my mind.

The process breaks down when I write more slowly. That’s when the inner critic chases me down. I freeze at the screen, trying to think of the next few words or sentences. Then I type something down, think for a minute, and backspace all of it. Sometimes I retype the same thing I wrote the first time; other times, I write something totally different or a scrap of an idea. After that I might check IRC or Twitter or the NaNo forums or something related to what I’m writing, proceeding to waste far too much time on these things. And then I turn back to the writing document and wonder if this is ever going to be worthy.

This is why I haven’t managed to get the hang of editing yet. The editing process is full of slowing down and making sure everything works. It’s also full of slowing down to a stop and questioning whether what I’ve written is any good at all. Unfortunately for my writing process, there is no speed editing process.

So why do I write like it’s going out of style? Because if I don’t write fast, I won’t write at all.

6 thoughts on “Why do I write like I’m running out of time?

  1. My best writing usually comes from bursts of very fast typing. I can write at a slower pace, but I tend to get stuck or distracted more easily at those times.

    I’m still trying to get the hang of editing myself. The best thing I’ve found so far is to forget what I’d written entirely before I allow myself to look at it again. I like my writing when I can’t remember writing it.

    The biggest thing holding me back these days is my endurance. If I can’t sit and type long enough to get into the zone I get very little writing done that day. My issues stem from physical and mental health complaints melding together, and it is taking me a while to figure out what works for me right now and what doesn’t.

    • I definitely get stuck more often when writing slowly. The writing might not be the *best*, but it’s writing toward an end and that’s what matters.

      And totally agreed on liking my writing when I can’t remember it. One of my big projects over the next year or two is to reread every single one of my NaNo novels in order and blog about it, so we’ll see if this still holds. 🙂

  2. Very intriguing post!

    I have had the soundtrack of Hamilton on repeat for the past two weeks or so – absolutely love your post title (I do presume that’s the reference).

  3. I read this blog post a while ago, and it’s sort of been floating around in my brain ever since! I love the comparison you used, that writing is like you’re playing tag with your inner editor. While I’m not a super-fast typist, I love writing as fast as I can, because it prevents me from hesitating and reconsidering every sentence.

    • This is exactly why I do it! In fact, I’m hesitating while writing this comment because um, what if this sounds better or what if what if what if. Okay, hitting send now to prove my point. 😛

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