Orson Welles was a highly respected filmmaker, but for years I didn't know that. When I was little, I knew him only as the guy on a Paul Masson commercial who said, "We will sell no wine before its time."
And I've been thinking about that catchphrase because of how it relates to my writing.
(Yes, I can relate practically anything to writing.)
One aspect of novel writing that has been extremely difficult for me to accept is the time required.
What I mean is that I’m not a person who can bang out a novel in a few weeks. My brain needs time to build a long story.
I can write nonfiction on short deadlines. But there’s something about the world-building, theme-building, and character development of a novel that dictates a slower pace. With nonfiction, the facts and circumstances already exist, and my challenge is to express them coherently and insightfully. But with fiction, I must create everything: the plot, the characters, the conflict.
It takes a long time to write a novel, time during which my daily progress is barely measurable. Some days, all I do is delete. Some days, all I do is think.
Many writers work more quickly than I do. Maybe even most writers. I have had to accept the fact that I am not one of them. I can put lots of words on paper (or a computer screen) in a short amount of time, but they aren’t good words. They aren’t worth reading. My attempts to wrest control from the muse and speed things up have been utter failures.
I wish this process weren’t so slow for me. Many times, my friend Kelly Ramsdell Fineman has answered my frustrated emails by reminding me, “It takes as long as it takes.” And so I’ve been working to accept it, to work within my pace, rather than fight it. Some days I’m more successful than others.
As Orson Welles might have said if he'd been speaking for me instead of Paul Masson, "We can write no book before its time."