I’m really in awe of people who can think on their feet. The kind of people who can come up with ideas in the middle of conversations. The kind of people who can hit you with a quick fire retort without any effort. The kind of people who can figure out how to do things right away, and then get on with it.
I’m not a fast thinker. Far from it. I’m about as opposite as you can ever get. I’m a slow thinker.
My inability to think quickly manifests itself on many levels. It’s most obvious in general conversation. I’m not a quick or witty conversationalist. I can’t throw back fast-paced zingers. I have to think carefully about everything I say. Sometimes I can’t actually think of anything to say. It doesn’t mean I’m dumb. It just means the conversation is happening faster than my thinking powers.
It’s a bit of an issue at work as well. Meetings are a particular problem. There always seem to be people who know exactly what to say and when to say it. These are the fast thinkers – the ones who can figure things out right away. They always seem to be able to control the meeting and take it in the direction they want it to go. As for me, I’m still trying to think through the implications of everything being said. By the time I’ve figured out what I want to say, the subject of discussion will have moved on.
And it’s like this in other work areas as well. I work in a design field. As a designer (and yes, that word is in my job title), part of my role involves a bit of trial and error. I might prototype an idea to see if it works, and then either build on it or reject it and start again. This, of course, takes a bit of time. I can’t just zoom in and get it all done in one simple hit (as some of my previous managers seem to think I should). I need to slow think around ideas in order to determine if they will work or not.
The final area this comes out in is my writing. I’m amazed at writers who can churn out material in rapid time, and with barely any redrafting. My first drafts take ages as I slow think my way around the progress of the story. And then I rewrite and rewrite, as I gradually identify all the things that aren’t working and can be improved. And that’s all before I show even a sentence to an editor. There’s no way I could fast think my way to writing a short story, let alone a whole novel.
At this point in my life, I’m pretty well adjusted to my slow thinking speed. It serves me well and helps my mind work around problems in a careful and thorough way. I admire the people who can think quickly, coming up with decisions on the fly. But I don’t mind if that will never be me.
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