The hare, who runs very quickly, races the tortoise, who moves very slowly. Because the hare knows he’s faster, he stops to take a nap, during which time the tortoise passes him and wins the race.
I disliked it because it never felt true for me. Most re-tellings of this fable end with a moral similar to the ones below:
- “The race is not always to the swift.”
- “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for slow and steady won the race!”
- “Slowly does it every time!”
As an article from TV Tropes rightly points out, “Slow and steady will only win the race if your opponent acts like a fool. In any other case, slow and steady won't win you any race at all.”
It’s true. Slow and steady are not rewarded in modern American culture. We are obsessed with speed. We want fast food, fast Internet, fast workers, fast commutes, fast answers, fast results...the list doesn’t stop.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being fast...if you’re a hare.
But the world is full of more than hares . . .
Unfortunately, this fact hasn’t stopped the hares from telling all the other animals that “Fast is best.” Nor has it stopped the other animals from believing this lie, including the lie that racing is required.
I used to subscribe to a lot of blogs and podcasts that talk about writing, side hustles, and creative pursuits. Almost every single one shares a tip (or an advertisement for a product) that will make me create faster and earn money faster. Because faster is better, right? In fact, “fast” appears to be king of the independent publishing world. Many indie gurus who are making money (or who claim to be) do so by creating quickly or by teaching others how to do so.
Success for the rest of us is right around the corner, the story goes. We just have to speed things up to get there.
I bought into this for a while . . . until life got in the way. Obstacles like unemployment, empty-nest syndrome, a new and stressful job, financial issues, and personal issues completely derailed my planned sequel to my last published book, Portals and Poison.
As I was battling through my drama, I realized much of my writer’s block was caused by my listening to everyone else’s voice except my own.
That’s when I took action. I . . .
- unsubscribed to 95% of the email lists, podcasts, and programs I had signed up for.
- took a break from a number of outside obligations.
- stopped writing.
- stopped watching the news in favor of scanning news apps occasionally.
- stopped blogging (although I’d never been that faithful to begin with).
- slept a lot.
- gave myself permission to stop reading, watching, or listening to anything I wasn’t enjoying.
Eventually, I could hear my own voice again. I accepted the fact that life circumstances would not allow me to do anything creative quickly. I embraced my “tortoise” life, including the reality that I probably won’t produce as much or make as much money as the “hares.” I stopped thinking of life as a race (although I'll admit, I'm still working on that last one).
My writer’s block eventually lifted. My slow, steady, and quiet pace (outside of my job, anyway) eventually allowed me to finish another book, Inkwells and Jail Cells. I had to slow down to write to write this book. Storylines and characters that are now central to the plot developed only when I devoted time to their development. I had to embrace who I was--in this case, a tortoise--in order to realize my creative vision.
If you’re a hare, good for you! I’m not going to bother racing you because I know you’ll win.
But if you’re a tortoise like me--or maybe a butterfly or a whale or a dragon--and you have a creative project in the works, I hope you’ll ignore whatever the hares in your life are saying and instead do the work your own way and in your own time.