COVID-19 taught us it’s okay to slow down

When I was in elementary school, my teacher used to call me “turtle.”

She said it affectionately to express how frustrated she felt by my “slowness.” She often told me I was a great student, but that I still struggled to catch up with the simplest things.

It didn’t dawn to me until my late twenties how much pain those “affectionate” words had caused. Being called “slow” can be a heavy burden for a small child to carry, especially in a world where everything seems to be moving too fast.

Either the child accepts it and lives her life without realizing her true potential, or she does everything in her power to escape that label. Thankfully, I belong to the second group. But as the years pass by, I’ve come to realize I was never truly able to escape that label.

In these past few weeks of confinement, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it truly means to be “slow.”

Unlike so many people plaguing our social media feeds with their shameless levels of productivity, I lagged behind.

This pandemic affected me more than I like to admit. It made me slow down, reevaluate my priorities, cut some commitments that were bringing tons of stress to my life, and surprisingly disconnect from all non-essential things.

These days, I cherish the few precious minutes in the sun, simple conversations with my family, replaying a videogame that made me fall in love with RPG, committing myself to a job I’ve come to love, above all other metrics that had been consuming me for the past few months.

Slowly, I’ve been regaining my focus and drive.

I’m remembering things that got trashed by the urgency of life. Catching up with the stories I had to tell.

I’m not the same person I was one month ago, and today I feel finally moving on from the “sloth” mentality that has been keeping me from writing for the past few weeks.

But instead of feeling the urgency and shame I once felt, I’m actually thinking how great it was to just slow down everything for the past month.

Is being slow really that bad?

Writing does not just occur when you’re at the keyboard or with pen in hand. It brews in the mind. I believe narrative voice benefits greatly from this productive mulling.

Susan Burmeister-Brown in The Writer

I love Burmeister-Brown’s words.

Unlike so many people giving out advice on how to write your next novel, she challenges us to dive deep and let the writing brew in our minds.

Two weeks ago, I started writing a short story, but instead of rushing through it and deciding it sucked, I let the story brew in my mind. I questioned every word, every move, every sound. I edited it to exhaustion and suspect that once my brain forgets the words, I will probably edit it again.

This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

We live in a culture that praises productivity. The fastest way to become a better writer is to write more books. But how does that advice really work? How often do we cringe when reading works that have been published too soon?

Most seemingly “bad” writing may just reveal a lack of editing. If that’s so, why the hell do we keep rushing through our manuscripts, drafts, and articles? Why not give ourselves some time to mull over a story or idea?

I believe social isolation created the perfect conditions for mulling over things.

This is possibly the worst time to build our “author platforms” because the noise has become unbearable. But this is also the best time to slow down and embrace the hard work of diving into our most bizarre ideas.

Don’t you think?

Featured image credits: Matt Seymour on Unsplash

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Fleur Campbell

I agree 🙂 I’ve always been the opposite – fast learner, with too much on my mind, wanting to do everything and be everywhere. I’ve been learning to slow down a bit, and it has being doing wonders for my body and mind

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