A few weeks ago I was chatting with a longtime friend and critique partner about my current work-in-progress. Okay, mostly I was spouting off about finishing the first draft. I wanted to complete the first revision by May, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have time. I had a revision to finish on another novel. I had this. I had that. But May—it had to be May.
I prattled on for five minutes before she stopped with me a laugh. One that was certainly not ‘with’ me, but ‘at’ me. It’s not the first time she’s laughed at me (we have 27 years of friendship between us—I’ve done a lot of things to laugh ‘at’ in that time). But her laugh made me stop and ask why.
“What’s the hurry?” she asked. “Why May?”
Well, I don’t know. I’m not under any deadline. It’s not like the world will implode should it take me until June to finish. Or July. Or 2017.
It’s simply that I feel this need to hurry. To rush. Because…I like stressing about it?
I’ve seen this feeling in my fellow writers. That we must hurry. I’m not talking about writers under deadline, but writers like me—who write because of love or because they hope to have deadlines in the future but don’t presently.
Why do we rush? And, perhaps more importantly, is that a good thing?
Sometimes we’re rushed by passion. The drive to get the words down, the story concluded, the characters to their happily ever after (or wherever they are going). A rollercoaster, skydiving, cliff jumping, desire-and-fervor adrenaline rush.
But there’s another kind of rush. The one that makes me feel guilty if I don’t put down new words every day. Where I fear there isn’t enough time. A rush that makes me set arbitrary deadlines for no reason other than this panic that I’ll somehow be late.
It’s a fine line—rush vs. rush. Passion vs. fear.
I’ll take the passion. But for the other kind of rush, I need to let it go. Maybe the novel will be drafted by May. Maybe it won’t. Between now and then, I’ll hang on and let the rollercoaster drive me forward. And when that other rush nips at me, I’ll remember Junot Díaz’s brilliance:
Books are not people. They are never late to the party. It doesn’t make any difference, early or late, as long as you get it done.