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Tortoises & Hares

Fast and Erratic Finishes the Race


Posted February 2016


I have always been the hare. Seriously, you know the story, the one where the overly-confident, exuberant rabbit takes off and leaves the slow, brooding tortoise in the dust? That’s me, hot out of the starting gate, racing a hundred miles an hour toward some pie-in-the-sky goal, certain I’m going to reach it in record-shattering time, until about a third of the way in, I get distracted, lose interest, run out of energy, or simply get discouraged, leaving dozens of half-started ventures and one-time dreams in my wake, while all the tortoises of the world plod forward, consistently trodding toward their goals.­

Writing novels is not for hares. It’s a tortoise’s game. Slow and steady wins the race. You move forward a little at a time, some days not at all, and each night you stumble away brain-numb and flat-assed with very little to show for it. You fall into a twitchy sleep, your brain still wrestling with the intractable beast and placating yourself with platitudes like: Any progress is good progress, One word at a time, What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger, Suicide is for wimps.­

For a person who idolizes Bugs Bunny and who has an attention span that is proportionate, it’s positively infuriating. When the going gets tough, the smart go to the bar for a glass of wine, is usually my motto. I have a garage full of half-baked ideas and fledgling businesses to prove it. Yet, somehow, even with my commitment issues, I have managed to make it into the world of published authors.

I actually think my hare-brained attitude (get it—he, he) is in some ways brilliant for the task. It gives me that adrenaline-pumped kick start all writers need to jump into a project. And by the time that jolt has petered out, I’m neck deep in the story and can’t stand the idea of not knowing how it ends. Because in addition to being a very impatient rabbit, I am also a pantster, a writer who writes by the seat of her pants and has no idea where the story is going. So, right at the point when I am ready to say, “That’s all folks!” and settle in for a long nap, my curiosity gets the better of me and sends me hurdling forward, anxious to get to the end. Which is a problem for my endings, which tend to in the earlier drafts suffer from get-this-over-with syndrome.­

So, if you’re like me—hairy and impatient, love to jump around, and also love a long siesta—don’t despair, writing novels might be better suited for tortoises, but unlike the fable, cottontails can make it to the finish line as well.

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