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Friday, March 28, 2008
Reading: For What Ails You
The perfect cure (antidote, kick-in-the-butt) to feeling stuck (burnt-out, unmotivated, lazy) as a writer, is to read a good book.
Every writer knows this, of course.
But I am always surprised that I forget it so easily, as I did these past two weeks, when anything connected with writing has made my teeth itch. All I wanted to do was crawl under the covers – and not with a book. And that's precisely what I did, at least for a few days. Then I roused myself, worked fitfully on two essays for two days, and then fell right back into that unfortunately comfortable place: malaise (also known as "everything I write is crap, so why bother?").
It was my 10-year-old son who reminded me.
He came home from school the other day, smiley and buoyant, with six books he'd purchased from the school book fair, mostly with his own money. "I can't wait to read them all," he said. "You can borrow one if you want, Mom."
How did he know?
I went straight to the section of my bookshelf that's most overloaded – the to be read section – and pulled out Carolyn Parkhurst's novel, The Dogs of Babel. I started the book at 6:00, and with short breaks for dinner and kids' good night routines, I finished around midnight. I read hungrily. I'm sorry, but I have to say it: I just couldn't put it down. Sure, I may have been a little reading-deprived, but this is also a terrific book – by turns surprising, odd, lovely, funny, quirky, sensitive and satisfying. And, by the way, I don't even like dogs very much.
Today, I worked on my own writing – passionately, happily, hungrily; like a dog. Aah.
Now, I must go and join my son who is watching a Harry Potter movie; he's got a plan, watching each movie as he finishes each book in the series. I’m not all that interested in the movie, honestly. But I'm really interested in what else this smart kid of mine might have to say.