What I’m Reading: October 2015

What we’re reading can have a profound effect on what we’re writing. Who we’re reading can have an even more profound effect on us personally. I’ve been thinking a lot about WHO I’m reading versus what I’m reading and how it’s changing me personally.

While I won’t go into detail right now, I’ll share a list of who I am reading.

  • Zadie Frost  — “White Teeth”
  • Margaret Bradham Thornton  — “Charleston”
  • Medeleine Marsh — “Compacts and Cosmetics: Beauty From Victorian Times to the Present Day “
  • Wilma Dykeman — “The French Broad”
  • Nina George — “The Little Paris Bookshop”
  • Charles B. Handy — ” The Second Curve: Thoughts on Reinventing Society”

My current list is pretty female heavy and varied. I love finding new books and my friends who write are also great readers. If you have a few minutes, I’d love for you to share who you’re reading in the comments.


Writing Advice For Myself

There are days you sit down to write and the screen stays blank. You sit in a nondescript chair in an unknown location and question yourself, what you’re writing, and who you’re writing it for.

Those days can suck your soul dry.

Maslow said “a musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself”.

I was the person sitting in the nondescript chair in the unknown location staring at a blank screen. Even my mind was — blank. I had no idea what to say. No idea why I was there. I certainly had no idea who I was supposed to be doing this for and then I realized how wrong I was.

You see, I’m not supposed to write for anyone. I’m supposed to write for me. Sitting in front of a screen, waiting for words to come for other people is how you can guarantee it will stay blank. My screen has been blank for quite a few weeks.

This evening,  I’m making a point to sit here and write for myself. We will call it an exercise in practice. If someone happens upon this blog post and reads it, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s okay too.

You see, writing is about the writer. At least it is for me. I lost sight of that some time ago. My words are just that, they are mine. Writing is an exercise I should value. When I write for myself, I am allowed to experiment and find my soul in the words.

Is it important for writers to choose not to appeal to readers or markets? We inspect our feelings and the events that shaped us in order to make sense of life through what we write. This freedom allows us to create without abandon. I like creating, but I also like structure — which causes internal struggle.

For now, I will write for me. If I don’t, I’ll never write again.

When the mind is a blank page.

Garlic is wafting through the house, the large industrial fan in my kitchen does nothing to alleviate the smell. I should be sitting here, taking in the heady pungent fragrance, as a form of meditation. Instead, I’m thinking about writing.

That sounds like heaven for most. Except I’ve not written this much is several weeks. Not even in my journal. Sure there have been various lines scribbled here and there in the pages of my personal mental sanctum sanctorum. But they read like the lines of a therapist’s notes “patient claims brain is fried” or, worse, a Twitter status “cereal for a late lunch.”

My friend, Kim, and I discussed our writing today, which is what I think has inspired this, so far, 124 words. She is “fried” and after launching her erotica book club  “Bawdy Bookworms,” I can’t say I blame her. It takes a lot of work to launch something of that magnitude as a sole proprietor.

I sit and look at my “day blog” the one that’s monetized, where I work and eek out a paltry sum, and am … blank. I have no idea what I want to write there, and question any relevance it might have. It’s affected me with everything else I write, as I’m still blank. Flashes of inspiration appear here and there, but nothing concrete.

That being said, I wonder if a fiction piece I started has affected my writing and caused this big “blank” page in my mind. King says, “Write what you know” and what has been on my mind lately was the recurring nightmare from my childhood. I haven’t thought about it in years, but I was in the shower and I remembered this dream. It was so clear, I started writing it down and developing it into fiction.

Therein lies the problem. I think. I’ll spare the details, but I always forced myself awake as a child when the person in my dreams was having his legs cut off. When I told my husband about the dream, remembering it exactly as it happened over and over so many years ago, he was horrified but encouraged my idea of turning it into fiction.

This means I have to finish the dream. No, I don’t have to dream it again, but I have to sit and imagine the dream and what it means. Why were his legs cut off? Do I need to write about was going on in my life to cause this dream? (I know, as it was ongoing, but that’s a can of worms I’m not sure I want to open.)

This dream… I have to gut it out and figure out how to end it. I’ll be quite honest with you, it’s times like this I wish I had Stephen King on speed dial.

Filling the well

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. ~Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was right. I write a lot of informal essays and each one is like taking a sharp razor and slicing my soul open.

I am ignoring my soul.

Part of it is fear. The other part is insecurity. If I avoid the words, then I can ignore all the things about the words that frighten me.

I’m working hard. Too hard. Which means I am not writing.

My soul, the one that bleeds the words, is dry.

And I am not sure how to fill the well within.

“Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces.”
—Allegra Goodman