Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow: finding pleasure in a change of pace

a home painted green road sign saying stop slow down in white paintYesterday, Sarah Pickthall and I ran an event at Mozilla in London around disability, digital and all things interlinked. It was for a project called ShortCircuit and was fab – packed, inspirational, exciting – and exhausting. And it’s been a pretty flat out process in the lead up too – planning meetings, clarifying briefs, doing research, firing off emails, having skype calls, printing out stuff and then making emergency dashes for bluetac.

I tend to always work at this pace. It starts first thing. I don’t lie in. Never really have. Rarely do I have a day to ‘just wake up’ as I usually have an alarm on for something, even if its to get up and put the washing on. Somehow it feels that if I can steal a march on the day, I’ll be able to achieve more.

It fits in with a life in the arts – we seem endlessly to be rushing to deadlines, racing around, pushing ourselves to do more, more, more in the same or less time.

I read a tweet yesterday from the Do Lectures, which I attended last year: ‘Time poorly spent will not be replaced with more time. Time doesn’t do refunds’. I often spend my days squeezing in a huge amount of ‘stuff’ into each day in an effort not to ‘waste’ time.

If I’m brutally honest, I get a buzz out of my energy, get a kick out of people saying ‘oh, how much you do’, ‘oh, how busy you are’. But recently I have begun to question my compulsion for speed.

I’ve talked before about the Alexander Technique and its request for you stop each time before taking or making an action. It started the questioning for me and then last week I found an article online which floored me with it’s perspective on speed.

It was called The great tragedy of Speed and it begins:

Speed in work has compensations. Speed gets noticed. Speed is praised by others. Speed is self-important. Speed absolves us.

It quickly moves on to focus in on why we speed and most importantly what happens to us when we do. Three lines really hit me:

When it becomes all-consuming, speed is the ultimate defense, the antidote to stopping and really looking…


…speed saves us the pain of all that stopping…


…very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are – we see … only those moving with the same urgency.

It resonated with me. What was I trying to escape? What was I missing by always going so fast?

So I spent a little time wondering… what about within my personal relationships – what I want, what I get, what I give? Do I stop long enough to really know?

Might I miss my own rough edges through going to fast? Might I miss the tiny times with the kids – the small moments when they might want to speak but look up and see me typing/tapping and think they best not bother me?

Alexander technique gives me time to be me, to focus on how my body feels, to increase my awareness of myself. I see it also as an investment for the future – a way of improving me now that will also bear fruit long-term as I damage myself less physically. I love the reminders about being present, not just seeking an end point the whole time but actually enjoying and being present with the journey, and doing that in my body and not just in my head.

Working in the dance studio on Edgecloser, a project I am working on with Luke Pell for Dance Digital also gives me a chance to be with time in a different way. In the studio I experienced time differently, if that makes any sense. It’s not about rushing to the end of something, it’s about exploring what is happening in the moment and giving it the time it needs. The time went quickly but it felt more real, more embodied; I felt I had ‘occupied’ the time very physically. Not the same as when I sit at my computer and the time flies past.

For me there is a pain associated often with stopping – stopping or even doing less is accompanied by a tension – a balance between guilt (‘I don’t deserve to stop/there is too much to do’) and self-importance/awareness (‘I work hard, I deserve a break, everyone needs a rest’).

But all of this can be quite shallow, and hide an even deeper fear – what about when I can’t go fast? What do I allow that (or the fear of that) to say about me?

When I’m ill or knackered, the impact then is quite pronounced internally; I feel less ‘capable’. I label myself ‘lesser’ and I don’t like myself for that. I don’t mind the buzz of speed, but I would also like to cultivate a buzz from slowness too. Be able to give myself the credit and praise for the ability to flex from one to the other as I, and the situation require.

So I’m aiming to spend more time doing less. To stop and really feel what the stopping gives me. To look around and notice different things from this position. To see how it feeds my work. To find ways to appreciate both the stop and the slow as well as the fast.

Why don’t you stop too – we could have a cup of tea?

Photo by photologue_np and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.

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