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Dyeing Eggs Quickly & Writing a Novel Slowly

Dyeing Eggs Quickly & Writing a Novel Slowly

The other day I thought it would be fun to dye some Easter eggs, so I picked up a half dozen eggs at Trader Joe’s. Stupidly, I forgot to open the carton to check if they were cracked, which is how I also missed the fact that they were brown. I guess I won’t be dying those.

The last time I dyed Easter eggs was at a friend’s house in high school. This friend – we’ll call her Trudy – had a very intense, hyper-active (and dare I say frightening) mother, who, at the time, was very intense and hyper-active (and frightening) about her involvement with church.

“We need to dye all two hundred of these eggs and get them over to the church ASAP,” I remember her shouting at me and Trudy.

“I actually need to get home,” I told her, glancing at the clock – it was a quarter past five. My own mother was very intense about being home for dinner.

“No one is going anywhere until all these eggs are dyed!” And with that she stomped out of the room.

So Trudy and I set to work placing hard-boiled eggs on the little metal dippers and lowering them into cups of dye that smelled of vinegar. At first, I tried to be creative – dipping half an egg in yellow and the other half in green, for example –but Trudy’s mother kept coming in to check on our progress and yelling at us for not being finished yet. She seemed to have forgotten that the eggs needed to be submerged in the dye for some time before they’d take on any color.

“Come on! Let’s get going!” she yelled. I looked at the clock. I really did need to get home. My mom was going to be mad.

Sweating with the stress of it all, Trudy and I plunked eggs into the cups and fished them out thirty seconds later. The egg in the purple dye came out a pale gray, and the egg in the yellow was the color of slightly-stained teeth. Well, whatever. They were dyed, weren’t they? Trudy and I didn’t care what they looked like anymore. We only wanted to avoid the wrath and disapproval of our respective mothers. We put the eggs into cartons and carried them out to Trudy’s mom’s van.

On the way to take me home, Trudy’s mom looked at us in the rear view mirror and said, “that was fun, wasn’t it?”

It was not fun, obviously. And dying Easter eggs is something that should be fun. Fun, or, at the very least, relaxing and enjoyable. There’s something pleasant about holding a hard-boiled egg in the palm of your hand, about watching it get swallowed up by tinted water. There’s something pleasant about plucking it out a few minutes later to see that its delicate shell has taken on a new color – a deep, rosy pink or a cool, bright blue.

But when you force someone to do something, and, worse yet, when you force them to do it fast, it tends to take the enjoyment out of an otherwise pleasant activity.

So why is it that people are always forcing themselves to write, and forcing themselves to do it quickly?

I understand the forcing yourself to write part. Writing is hard. It’s much easier to lay around watching Netflix and eating chocolate. Sometimes you have to to practice some tough love; you have to force yourself to follow the Nora Roberts writing commandment of “ass in chair.” But does that mean you have to write fast?

For many people, the answer seems to be yes. As proof look at the the popular self-help system “Book in a Month” as well as NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month (November). There are multiple 24-hour and 48-hour short story contests as well as (no joke) a 3-day novel writing contest.

And I understand the thought behind all of this, too. Writing is hard and scary. Better to get it over with as quickly as possible. It will come out crappy, but at least the hard part will be over.

That’s what I’ve thought every time I’ve embarked on a novel.  I always think faster is better.  After a while of churning out pages, I start to feel like it doesn’t even matter how the book turns out, as long as I finish.  I think that once I get to the end, the hard part will be over.

Except that isn’t the case.  Because I’ve written several novels in a short amount of time, and I’m realizing now that revising these quickly-written novels is actually harder and more frustrating than the actual writing of them.

Writing is not a race.  (Eva running in the Ugly Sweater 5K.)

Writing is not a race. (Eva running in the Ugly Sweater 5K.)

You know what else? Writing at a frantic pace is stressful. It takes a lot of the fun out of the process.

While I ponder how to improve the novels I’ve written,  I’ve started on a new one. Except, this time, I’m forcing myself to slow down.

I spent several days brainstorming before I even wrote one sentence.  I took a week to compose the first fifteen pages. Normally I would berate myself for such slow-going, but this time I’m not. I’m enjoying the process.  I’m allowing myself the time to be creative.

The other day I wrote two pages and then I went for a walk and thought about what I had written. I came back and changed a few sentences.  I wrote one more paragraph. That was enough for the day. I was pleased with what I’d done.

Sometimes you need to take your time and let the ideas soak. They’ll take on a good color that way. And you’ll probably enjoy yourself more, too.


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

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