Writing is not just a technical form. It is also a form that involves feel and pace. The “feel” part is instinct. It’s the voice that evolves from your own sensibilities and is the culmination of everything you have read and admired.
Pace, on the other hand, is another entity entirely. It is the mood of the moment. It is the flow of the words from your brain to the page. When I talk about pace, I mean sitting down and being only of the world of writing.
It’s the sound of the keys typing or the pen scratching away at the pad. Pace isn’t always good. Sometimes, you get lost. Sometimes, it’s uneven.
In terms of sports, I would say that pace is analogous to the tempo of a pitcher. When elite pitchers like Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw are in a groove, when they know that their “stuff” is outstanding, they have an up-tempo style of pitching. They catch the ball from the catcher, they don’t walk around the mound, they don’t kick at the mound, or scratch away at the rubber. No, they get back into the hill and they throw the next pitch.
This is the pace of writing. Uneven and inconsistent on the worst of nights, but still a grind. Never forget that. But when the pace is right, it envelops the writer and you just want to keep going.
Unfortunately, like a pitcher, pace can always be disrupted. It’s someone knocking on the door or calling you to dinner. It’s an annoying text or even switching songs. Hell, sometimes it’s even a word you can’t recognize, and you know is that the tip of your fingers. No one else knows if they’re disturbing your pace, so, try not to take it too personally. Yet, what if the pace is disrupted? What then?
You move past it. Even the best pitchers don’t agree on every pitch. But, they don’t let that put them off their game. They regroup, they stepped back on the mound and they throw the next pitch. They keep the pace going.
I imagine, that pace is the reason why Kubla Khan is not finished. Or why the Count of Monte Christo is said to have been written in four months. (Disclaimer: I wasn’t actually able to find a source on that particular reference, but it’s been anecdotally referenced by several English teachers that I’ve known)
Pace is important. It is the “zone” that we enter when we write. Personally, I find this zone more easily entered at night. Mornings are generally better for editing. I also find that this zone of pace is more easily entered (I should say good pace is achieved) with good repetition. It’s a bullpen session. Some days. You just keep throwing. So I keep writing. Forming good habits. (On a side note, the exactly some interesting psychological concepts and applications behind habits and how they are formed. Including memories. But that’s for a psych book and, maybe another time)
Pace is inconsistent, absent flow some nights. Like pitchers, some nights are a grind, where nothing works. That doesn’t you don’t work. You do. You step up on that mound and throw the next pitch. Because that’s the job.