I’m revving up my reading pace in anticipation of summer. On average, I’m putting away about three books a week. One a review book, one about writing as craft and one novel. Haven’t read this voraciously since I was 12.
Was telling my mom about this over the weekend and she laughed remembering how, when I was 11 and she finally gave me permission to read “Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret” (a rite of passage for pre-pubescent girls) I laid on the picnic table with my gangly legs crossed and didn’t budge until I finished the book.
Of course, I didn’t tell her that later that summer I also snuck into her top dresser drawer and clandestinely read Judy Blume’s other memorable work of female sexuality called, “Forever.” I would hide in my closet with a flashlight poring over the story that revealed how a young woman lost her virginity. Heady stuff it was and a far, far cry from “Ramona the Brave.” I’m not sure if I was remotely mature enough to handle its adult theme, but I know reading about it made me feel all tingly inside.
After I would finish reading for whatever time I could safely steal, taking care not to break the spine or dog-ear any pages, I felt guilty, dirty almost for reading something I knew I wasn’t yet supposed to. But I couldn’t help myself. And the next day I’d be tiptoeing back into my parent’s bedroom, hungry for more of that story.
And so it has always been with reading and me. When I’m hooked, the rest of my world seems to stop until I finish. Reading is my narcotic and my brain is always seeking more. “You’ve always got your nose in a book,” my hubby says. For the most part, he’s right.
Reading takes me away and brings home certain truths, it inspires and fills, soothes and stimulates. I’ve been doing a lot of it lately partly because I feel inspired to do so, a wonderful stack of books beckoning me to fall in. And partly I’ve been reading to escape what I should be doing, which is writing.
Of course, that’s not entirely true. I still write daily. But I have things I want to say and I’ve been reading so much in the interest of finding of my courage, of finding that phrase or thought that somehow seeps into my subconscious and says, “It’s okay. Go ahead and write what you want to say. Others will read it. Don’t be such a chicken shit!”
This week, I’m reading “Genuine Happiness: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment” by B. Alan Wallace, with a foreword by HH the Dalai Lama as my review book. “The Forest for the Trees” by Betsy Lerner has turned out to be a fabulous book on writers, including their neuroses. Read 100 pages this morning in between getting the kids off to school. And I’m reading Anna Quindlen’s “Blessings” at night before bed.
Early on Saturday morning I finished reading Stephen King’s book, “On Writing.” I have never read any of his novels because sci-fi horror has never been my thing, though I’ve seen many of the movies based on his work. If I had a dime for every time some joker did his worst Jack Nicholson impression, bellowing, “Wendy, I’m home!” from The Shining, I could get a pedicure this afternoon instead of writing the queries of which I’ve been procrastinating. But I found his writing about craft an inspired work and found I like him more than expected.
I burst out laughing when King spoke of watching his wife read his first draft, waiting for her reaction to a scene in which he knew she’d laugh. His wife, sensing his watchful eye finally shouts, “Stop being some goddam needy!”
I’m going to stop being so needy and neurotic—at least I'm going to try. This week the first of the essays is going out to the national mags. I’m going to get past my fear of rejection and embrace its anticipated result with gusto. After all, it’s all grist for the mill — even the rejections.