A lot of inexperienced performers, especially me, have a tendency to hurry through their performance. This is due to nerves or anxiety. I do this even during my lessons. My teacher, Abram, is constantly urging me to “slow down.” I guess our minds subconsciously think, “get in, get out, before something bad happens.” Or, “hurry up and get it over with, so this uncomfortable feeling will go away.” But it more often leads to mistakes.
More importantly, it spoils the composer’s, speechwriter’s, lyricist’s, or playwright’s vision and message. There’s a reason, after all, why composer’s add indications such as “legato” or “andantino” to their scores. They have a tempo in mind that is an integral part of the musical work they are composing. Any work in the performing arts has a mood or tone it’s trying to convey, and the pacing of the notes, scenes, or speeches contributes to the desired effect. The same is true of writing. There’s a difference between the delivery of a snappy one-liner and the delight of a stately, but deeply satisfying book like Amor Towles’ A Gentleman In Moscow.” A lot of stories need time to build, to develop, to lead the reader to the desired reaction. Charles Reade famously said, ” Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait.” I think we writers too often, in this era of breaking news, quick takes and fast cuts, of over-whelming and constant grabs for the consumer’s attention, tend to forget that our goal is to serve the story we’re writing, even if that means taking more time than we’re initially comfortable with. And I mean that in both senses: giving the story whatever time it needs to gel in our minds, and also taking longer to tell the story when we finally sit down to write, if that’s what is right for this particular work. Towles’ book is still selling briskly in hardcover, so even in the age of shortened attention spans, there’s a place for, even a yearning for, something of a more measured pace, which has room for depth of ideas, exploration of character, the building of an entire world, and a leisurely unfolding of events. I, myself, love flash fiction. But I also loved Towles’ book. Lucky us, we can have it all.