All of us have
experienced at one time or another the feeling of renewal that comes
from a change of pace. We may be walking or driving along
slowly, and something happens that makes us speed up. New
sensations occur; new thoughts cross the mind. We become more
alert. Or if we have been walking breathlessly beyond our pace
there is a feeling of relief, even repose, in slowing down.
The pace that kills
is the pace that never changes; frequent change of pace will keep us
from tedium on one hand or apoplexy on the other.
For most of us a
change of pace means slowing down, but in many activities we should
speed up. We may walk and talk too fast but think and work too
journalism knows that as a deadline approaches the reporter, the
make-up artist, the people on the copy desk all turn out better work
in half the time it takes when there is no pressure. The
acceleration releases latent powers. I have seen people, when
there's time, bone for an hour over a title or a heading--conjuring
up, as the slow mind at work will, dozens that are no good.
But as the last hour approaches, when there is no time to dally,
their minds click and the captions come in a flash. It is not
mere speed that does the trick, but speed that follows deliberation.
Experts in charge
of reading clinics point out that the best way to get something out
of the printed page is to read it fast, to set about to see how
quickly it can be intelligently covered, because the mind may wander
when reading is too slow.
The chances are that you should
change your reading pace from one of leisurely inspection to one of
concentrated, swift consideration. On the other hand, if you
have allowed yourself to become a hit-and-run reader, you may need
to give more time. No one pace is adequate in reading.
There are books to be read hastily and others to be read with loving
I have a nephew
whose slowness is the despair of his teachers, not to mention his
kin. At the age of nine he gets his work done in his own good
time. The other morning his mother suggested with wisdom that
he write a letter before going to school. His other letters
had taken as much as a day, off and on, to compose. In this
case, his time was limited to 20 minutes in which to write his
grandmother everything he could think of. The result was the
best letter he had ever done. It was the change of pace that
did it, by putting emphasis upon the preciousness of time and the
importance of using it to maximum effect.
We've been kidding
ourselves too long with the notion that we are rushed to
death. We are rushed with the wrong things. In these we
ought to slow down, but in others speed up. "Slow and
easy" is no motto for an interesting life, as some
contend. Indeed slowness may be a deterrent; often a person
can get further with a difficult job by plunging into it full steam.
Not infrequently a
change of pace is in itself a means of learning. Years of
using the typewriter steadily--added to the fact that I never
learned to write as a child--recently made it almost imperative that
I improve my longhand. I discovered that I had been rushing pell-mell
through my words. I disciplined myself to write plainly,
meticulously. Associates testify gratefully that the
improvement is a long step toward legibility. And what was
once a chore has become a pastime.
Thus a change in
tempo may increase enjoyment whether or not it improves our
work. If you are doing something tedious, it may become fun if
done at a changed speed. Many tasks--to mention only cleaning
house and writing letters--are oppressive in part at least because
they are time-consuming. But if we make them an affair of
dashing cavalry our attitude changes. The job becomes an
adventure, or a contest at least. For, oddly enough, a job
done at different speeds is not the same job at all. The
motions and emotions connected with it are different. Many
people who pine to change their jobs need only to change the pace
with which they do their jobs--mix up their work and get variety
into the tempo.
Change of pace is
like what we call second wind; in moments of fatigue it sets up a
fresh current of nervous energy. If you have been methodically
moving around the house, making beds, dusting, sweeping, try
shifting the flow of your energy into a different rhythm. Or
in the office, vary rush typing with work at slower speed. As
you work at any fatiguing task you'll find that change of tempo
rewards you, like the second wind, with a glowing sense of power.
Nowhere in the
simple acts of daily life does a change in pace make more difference
than in eating. Most of us gulp our food, and we miss half the
fun of eating. I was a fast eater, and so tried imagining that
I was a slow-motion picture of myself. Then I really tasted
for the first time foods I had been eating half-consciously all my
I live in one of
the uncelebrated scenic spots of the United States. There are
no travel folders to hymn its grandeur. Everyone rather
accepts its charm as a matter of course, and one reason for this is
that no one, save perhaps when mothering a new car, drives slowly
enough to appreciate the region. Until I myself broke in a new
car, I never even saw an old tulip tree on the way to the
station. Its top is broken by a generation of storms, some of
its limbs are missing, yet it survives with a pride and strength
that shame me in moments of trifling discouragements. It has
been there for years but I never saw it while I was hell-bent for
nothing. And there is a cathedral of trees and rocks on the
parkway not a mile from where I live--a place of quietness and
strength. Even to glance at it thoughtfully in passing is to
experience a moment of vespers. I had never been aware of this
spot until I changed my pace.
Since in my work I
have to talk a lot, I have fallen into the habit of talking
rapidly. Lately I decided to alternate rapid speech with
periods of slowing down, weighing each word, and letting its
implications have full play. And this, I find, keeps the
auditor's attention on edge, and makes me phrase more clearly the
ideas I want to convey. But it does more--it affords me a new
sense of confidence.
Haven't you, on the
other hand, known dreary, hesitant people who ought to try talking
fast for a change? While they fumble vaguely with facts, ideas
and phrases, you'd like to jolt them into thinking a sentence
swiftly through before they began it, so that words would follow one
another with logical sequence and zip. Deliberate speeding up
would not only add tremendously to their conversational
effectiveness, but would also transform them by giving them a new
and more sparkling personality.
In our method of
thinking, above all, change of pace can be invaluable. The
almost universal curse of worry is simply thought slowed down to a
stumbling and circuitous walk. To think through and settle
once for all a problem in the shortest possible time, and to act
briskly and daringly on our decision, is to annihilate the problem
On the other hand,
on busy days, try slowing down instead of speeding up. Linger
over breakfast; pretend that you have a lifetime for the many things
which must be crowded in before night. Live at slow
motion. Instead of racing, make yourself stroll. And,
paradoxically, when evening comes you will have actually done more
work than if you had pushed yourself.
To live all one's
life at largo would be deadly boring. The symphony you
like or the musical composition that stirs you is neither fast nor
slow throughout; it has as much variety in tempo as in mood.
It is this in part that keeps your interest keyed to the theme.
If we are hectic
and rushed it is not necessary to pull up stakes, move to the
country and drive a horse to change the pace of living. It's
not the city or business that wears us out; it's our response to it,
our meeting life head-on without slowing down or speeding up.
So if you are hitting a terrific pace, slow down. You don't
have to slow down forever: it's the change you need. Or
if you are going too slowly, if you are not alert but stodgy and
graceless in your living, "step on it" a while. What's
tedious in one speed may be delightful in another.