Stories have a rhythm to them. They have their characters, usually the protagonist and the antagonist. They have their devices: repetition, foreshadow, metaphor. They have their climaxes and anti-climaxes. Depending on the type of story, the story might have a moral to it – think Aesop’s Fables – or it might cause a reader to understand a culture, a way of thought, a product, or a service. Yes, stories have a rhythm.
That rhythm is unique to the story itself. It sometimes isn’t found until multiple revisions have occurred. It sometimes isn’t even noticed by the writer; an editor notices it and brings it to the attention of the writer. The writer then returns to the draft and works to develop that rhythm or to create something different. Perhaps the writer finds that he or she now has two different stories at hand, and the two cannot be brought together. Then again, maybe they can. Maybe their different rhythms and styles inform each other. Such is the case with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The different writing styles enhance the text. They convey what a straightforward story could not.
It’s also true that some stories simply require time. Some of my experiences in the past year have required that sort of time. I wasn’t able to write about those experiences when I was in the midst of experiencing them. I had to experience them, process them, and finally begin to write about them.
The truth is that there is no set time frame for any type of story, whether it be a blog post, a fairy tale, or an academic paper. I sometimes can write a blog post in fifteen minutes and follow the writing with minimal revising and editing. Other times, I labor over a post for two hours or more. The same phenomenon occurs when I’m writing a poem or a longer piece. Sometimes, the writing is easy, but other times it is slow, excruciatingly so.
I could have a temper tantrum when I’m in a slow writing period – this post is an example of one – but it doesn’t help the story. It doesn’t help to get the words on the page. I have to remain calm, and I have to remember that I can’t rush the story. It will come at its own pace. The only thing I can do is keep up with that pace, whether it’s slow or fast.
Photo: frankjuarez (CC BY 2.0)