By Christina McMullen
We’ve all heard them, silly catchphrases, metaphors and old wives’ tales that are meant to make us stop and think. The early bird catches the worm. A penny saved is a penny earned. A stitch in time saves nine.
Okay, funny story about that last one. I never was very good at sewing, so I had no earthly idea what it meant. I thought a stitch in time literally meant a stitch in the fabric of space and time. What nine was it saving? Astronauts, of course. Nine astronauts were lost in space and about to fall into a black hole, but some benevolent being stitched it up. Seriously, I am sometimes literal to a fault.
And sometimes I stray off topic. The point is, these phrases are quick ways to convey a point without having to say much. But I think it is time to retire some. Mainly, the ones I hear over and over when I dare complain about writing. And complain I do. Ask my husband. Every book I write is ‘killing me’ or is the ‘absolute worst!’ Fortunately for me, he is a musician and understands where I am coming from. He would never say, for example…
Slow and steady wins the race
I hear this one occasionally when I get bogged down by the fact that I am a slow writer. Let me tell you something. Back in November, I did a 5k. It took me something like 43 minutes to complete. I was slow. I was steady. I did not win the race. In fact, I might have been dead last if it hadn’t been for the fact that there were young children in this race as well. The winner had a time of something obscene like, 17 minutes. As I was plodding along, thinking about the cupcakes* at the finish line, several of these winners ran past, screaming at us slowpokes to get the heck out of their way. By the way, this was, as many 5ks are, a charity event, which was supposed to be fun. Do you know what isn’t fun? Being knocked off course by someone who takes running too seriously.
So no, slow and steady does not win the race. Neither does the promise of cupcakes*. Months of training and a competitive spirit wins the race. I guess, in a way, this is a better phrase. Not for book writing, but marketing for sure. Not that I’m going to win that race either. But hey, cupcakes* are cheap enough that I don’t have to win. Speaking of races…
Life isn’t a race
Wait, what? You just gave me bad advice on how to win the race! As my father (and later Kurt Cobain) used to say, “take your time and hurry up!” Well, which is it? A race or not a race? Here’s the thing: we’re using this one all wrong. Death isn’t the finish line in the race of life. Early retirement? Now were getting a little bit closer. We are all racing toward success. The faster you get there, the faster you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or cupcakes*, in my case.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
This irks me to no end. Aside from the ‘duh’ factor that any civilization built in a day is probably a cult and a poorly managed one at that, Rome was built by conquering other states and enslaving their people. Again, this one pertains to the speed of my writing, but also to the highs and lows of the book selling process. I realize that you can’t build a city in one day. And you can’t write a novel in one day. Well, I’m sure you could, but you shouldn’t. Not if you want it to be any good. And I certainly am not going to be a success in one day. But Rome wasn’t built by one person either, now was it? Books, especially indie books, are. I didn’t build the world I am writing in one day, but I built it. It is my world and I would like others to see my world and enjoy it. It’s okay to be a little impatient. Just don’t let it overtake you.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy
Okay, show of hands: How many of you just saw Jack Nicholson doing what Jack Nicholson does best?
Actually, there is nothing wrong with this proverb. Everyone needs to realize that sometimes it’s better to punch out and leave the project unfinished instead of wasting countless hours slamming your head against an immovable roadblock. Go home or go to happy hour, just don’t stay in the office, drooling on your keyboard as your brain turns to mush. Go win the race that isn’t life. There may even be cupcakes*.
*Why yes, I am starting my fall doctor’s visit diet. Why do you ask?