A taste of summer
Breathing room for the spirit

Ripening like trees

The Rook Tree

"...Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist's life, in understanding and in creating.

"Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confidence in the storms of spring without fear that after them may come no summer."   - Rainer Maria Rilke (from Letters to a Young Poet)

The Faery Tree

"Stories are like wine; they need time. So take the time. This isn’t a hot dog eating contest. You’re not being judged on how much you write but rather, how well you do it. Sure, there’s a balance — you have to be generative, have to be swimming forward lest you sink like a stone and find remora fish mating inside your rectum. But generation and creativity should not come at the cost of quality. Give your stories and your career the time and patience it needs."   - Chuck Wendig (from his terrific list of 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing)

Tilly and the tree elder


Slow and steady wins the race. We have known this wisdom through generations but only the lucky few heed it.

what a magical tree to visit Terri !

I beg to differ a bit here. Some writers are dark pool people, slow to un-muddy their own waters, careful, deep. Some writers are sun-spot people, sparking off ideas quickly and often into the numinous. Some are a quirky combination of the two. Judge what they produce, not how slowly or quickly they do it.

Just as you would not force a writer who thrives on night or music as they work to write in the silent day, so you shouldn't assume a writer's biologic rhythms are wrong.

On Benedryl,with conjunctivitis, so a bit crankier than usual.

Jane Yolen

Hmmm. I'm not sure either Rilke or Wendig are saying you *must* go slow, but rather advocating taking the time you (or a particular project) need -- and if that happens to be a little slower than you expected, or a little slower than another writer's output, not to panic! Or at least that's how I read these quotes....

Of course one must balance this with the realities of external deadlines and commitments -- and also not use the idea of "going deep and taking time" as an excuse for mere laziness. I completely agree with you, Jane, that everybody has their own ideal pace for producing their best work...and that ideal, in my experience, can fluctuate with different projects, and at different periods of one's life. (I've always envied the pace at which you work, while always maintaining your usual high standard of quality. It's awesome, my dear.)

Often the things I post here on this blog reflect where I'm at in my own creative process, rather than what I think everyone else should do! And I'm in a period where something I'm working on is taking longer than expected--and thus I needed the reminder that sometimes it's okay to go slow; that it's not a race.

Except (and here I'm arguing with myself) it *is* a race in one sense: a race with time. I'm not young, and there is ultimately a finite number of years in which I'll be able to turn what's in my head into stories and paintings. When I think in those terms, I'm desperate to speed up, to avoid time-wasting and naval-gazing and to just get the darn work out there. But health issues for me are always going to be a factor...and accepting that hard fact means accepting that my life's output will be more limited than I personally would have wished. Accepting, rather than hiding from, this knowledge has lead to the bone-deep understanding that now, in the second half of my life, I must be more selective about what I spend my time on. (At least when the realities of making a living permits.) And I find that hard, because I want to do *everything*. But I'm learning. For me, slow and steady truly is the only way to run the race...but oh how I envy the sprinters! (Which I think by *temperament* I actually am, slowed down by a faulty body. Grrrr.)

I think I was replying to years of people calling me prolific (which translates in my head into "hack") rather than versatile. I know you completely get that.

But what I was doing was in essence a warning shot to your readers, rather than pointing a finger at your initial post. Essentially I was saying, "Don't read this post with your brain set on Skim. It is not about fast/slow races. Writing is not a competitive sport except for each writer/artist trying to find a better, more perfect way to say something each and every time.

Using the tree metaphor:

Counting Rings

The tree's life force
whorled into its pith
gives us a count of its years,
the weathering of the wood.
An artist grows different rings:
the boldness of the idea,
where it touches the mind,
binds the soul
fits into the chinks
and interstices of a life,
not the speed of the life itself.
My rings are not scars
but medallions,
wearing them proudly,
when I move on
to the next battlefield
where my only opponent
in my shadow,
knowing that luck
must move with me,
or else I am undone.

©2012 Jane Yolen, all rights removed

Jane, that's fascinating, because I never thought of the word "prolific" as anything but complimentary, since I find it so enviable!

I think you've brought up some very good points here that readers of this blog will appreciate; thank you for that. And your poem is beautiful, perfect, and a prime example that gorgeous work can be composed quickly as well as slowly, in the hands of the right writer.

Here, here. Here is a perfect example of how magick brings conversation (between Jane Yolen and Terri Windling) to my Quonset hut in the woods surrounded by the Salish Sea. I loved the quote from "Letters to a Young Poet" first and then the dialogue. Aging and racing with time in a body that will produce differently, does produce differently causes the malleable makings of tight or widely spaced rings ... I live within thousands of trees who teach me through their examples. How lucky I am as an aging woman who writes to have their company, and yours from one tiny hut.

Thank you, Terri.

Hmm, I think I was considering this from the life pace that is forced on me from outside; the 'it should have been done yesterday' attitude of education authorities. Also to the instant and now training that has been given to our young people; something I witness in my classroom every day and in my own boys from time to time.

We need (as a society) to slow down a little and appreciate the journey instead of rushing to get to the next big thing.

I do agree that art and creative acts are done to the rhythm of the maker. The speed of the making does not negate the act or the product. However the environment within which we exist is getting faster and faster, I do find that somewhat distressing.

Truly, like lotuses, we blossom one petal at a time. If only we'd let ourselves be content with that. (Something I'm working on, for sure!)

This is a wonderful discussion. Magical in many ways. We are continents away from one another and meet in the air like witches and wizards. It is glorious we are all on the same path. Swift or decades long; the same quest. That beautiful mystery in a place in our minds next door to dreams. Sometimes waiting, waiting... sometimes sudden and complete. In my twenties I spent a fair amount of time trying to locate what it is, how to summon it. I had really small children then, and they helped me by being natural story tellers, poets and song inventors. Also, reading big volumes of mythic lore. I have no idea how that worked, but it did. Separating from the earnest writing self. Like a four year old child. One who's spend years reading and writing.

Thank you, everyone, for connecting over the miles and oceans and joining in this discussion.

Ms. Yolen, your poem speaks to me deeply this morning. I am a long time fan of your work, but this...but this... It's as though you wrote it just for me, for the place that I'm at. I send you deep thanks from Northern Ireland.

As do I.

What a wonderful discussion (sorry to be late to the party!)

I so relate, Terri, to the frustrations of uncontrollable factors which limit time, energy and mind-space for writing. It’s so easy to get stuck in the vicious circle of panic mode, when the ‘reckoning’ and fretting over stuff not done ends up sapping more of the energy needed for doing... The Rilke quote really speaks to me. So often, in hindsight, I realise that what I’d thought was wasted time, was actually a needed growing time – a kind of loose, baggy space where something rattling around inside my head could settle, steady and ripen...

Thanks for reminding me of that today!

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